Novartis has acquired Selexys Pharmaceuticals, an Oklahoma City based company specializing in hematologic and inflammatory disorders, for up to $665 million.

Novartis acquired the company following receipt of results from the SUSTAIN study—a Phase II trial evaluating the use of SelG1, an anti-P-selectin antibody, in the reduction of vaso-occlusive crises in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD). Results from the study will be presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) next month.

“With this acquisition, Novartis is able to leverage its leadership in hematology research to advance development of a potential new treatment option for patients living with this debilitating condition,” said Bruno Strigini, CEO of Novartis Oncology.

SCD is a hereditary, life-long disease that affects millions of people around the world. A major complication is vaso-occlusive crises, or pain crises, which can occur episodically when sickle-shaped red blood cells block blood flow through blood vessels.

“The acquisition of Selexys by Novartis represents an important step in the continued development of SelG1, a novel, potential first-in-class therapy for patients with this underserved life-threatening disease,” said Scott Rollins, Ph.D., former president and CEO of Selexys Pharmaceuticals.

In 2012, Novartis entered into a deal with Selexys that included $23 million in equity financing from MPM Capital. That capital allowed Selexys to begin the Phase II SCD study in 2013 that concluded with Novartis’ acquisition of the company this year. Using the added capital, Selexys expanded its staff and its space at the Presbyterian Health Foundation near downtown Oklahoma City.

“Everything about this company is internal to Oklahoma,” said Dr. Rollins in 2012. “Rod McEver at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation discovered this technology. [Oklahoma City-based] Cytovance Biologics is manufacturing it. It's a great spread-the-wealth model for the bioscience sector in Oklahoma.”

SelG1 had previously obtained orphan drug status in the U.S. and EU, which primed the drug for faster development and marketing. Dr. Rollins added that the investment by both Novartis and MPM Capital into this SCD study “really validates the science and the clinical approach.”

Prior to the Novartis deal, Selexys obtained local investments from individuals and organizations, including i2E Inc. (an OK-based small business non-profit corporation) and the Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund. Selexys also received about $12 million in grants, including one from the Oklahoma Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) program.

Said Dr. Rollins at the time, “Without that EDGE money, we wouldn't be bringing $665 million and jobs to Oklahoma.”

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