The new entity will be publicly traded and will focus on orphan drugs.

Synageva BioPharma, a privately held company focused on rare disorders, and Trimeris, which develops a particular class of antiviral drugs, have agreed to merge in an all-stock transaction. Upon closing, Trimeris will issue shares of its common stock to Synageva stockholders such that Synageva stockholders will own approximately 75% of the combined company, which will be called Synageva BioPharma.

Trimeris is working on fusion inhibitors for various infectious diseases. The company has one marketed product, Fuzeon, an anti-HIV treatment that was developed in collaboration with Roche. Substantially all of Trimeris’ revenues are derived from this partnership with Roche. Royalty revenue for the year ended December 31, 2010, was $1.6 million compared to $8.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2009. The decrease was driven by lower Fuzeon sales outside the U.S. and the reduced royalty rate.

Trimeris is now looking for a partner for its next-generation fusion inhibitor TRI-1144, for which an IND was filed in September 2008. It is designed with the goal of achieving durable suppression of HIV by increasing the potency and raising the genetic barrier to the development of resistance. Also, key to the development program was improving patient convenience via more patient-friendly administration with less frequent dosing and reduction of the injection site reactions associated with Fuzeon.

Commenting on the merger with Synageva, Martin Mattingly, CEO of Trimeris, says, “We believe this newly combined company will have a dramatic upside. The rare disease space offers very attractive opportunities for success due to the absence of effective therapies, the relatively small clinical trials, and the faster path to commercialization.

“We found the Synageva opportunity to be particularly compelling,” Mattingly notes. “The combined company will have a clinical-stage asset with ownership of worldwide commercial rights, a portfolio of additional rare disease programs, substantial financial resources, and a strong management team with prior experience in successfully bringing rare disease products to market.”

Synageva has four preclinical and one clinical-stage candidate. Lead compound SBC-102 is in Phase I trials in patients with early-onset and late-onset lysosomal acid lipase (LAL) deficiency. It is a recombinant human LAL with the same amino acid sequence as the human LAL enzyme. This enzyme is responsible for the breakdown of cholesteryl esters and triglycerides. The compound has orphan designation from the U.S. and EU.

In late onset LAL deficiency, sometimes called cholesteryl ester storage disease, which affects children and adults, the buildup of fatty material in the liver, spleen, and blood vessel walls leads to complications resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Early-onset LAL deficiency, sometimes called Wolman disease, affects infants in the first year of life and is rapidly fatal.

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