Gilead Boosts Cancer Pipeline With $65M EpiTherapeutics Buy

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Gilead Sciences has acquired EpiTherapeutics for $65 million cash, the companies said today, in a deal that adds to the buyer’s drug pipeline with preclinical, first-in-class small molecule inhibitors of enzymes involved in regulating gene transcription in cancer.

The enzymes, particularly histone demethylases, constitute a “therapeutic class [that] represents a strategic fit with our existing research portfolio, including the potential for novel combination approaches,” Norbert Bischofberger, Ph.D., Gilead’s evp, R&D, and CSO, said in a statement.

EpiTherapeutics hasn’t revealed too much to date about its compounds. The company’s website says its pipeline-building efforts are based knowledge within histone demethylases and methyltransferases, as well as “in-house drug discovery efforts to identify small molecule inhibitors of key enzymes within the family targeting unmet medical needs.”

Gilead’s pipeline includes eight compounds under development for 11 hematology and/or oncology indications. Two of the compounds have advanced into Phase III: Idelalisib, a PI3L delta inhibitor being studied for both frontline and relapsed refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and relapsed, refractory indolent non-Hodgkin lymphoma (iNHL); and Momelotinib, a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor for myelofibrosis.

EpiTherapeutics is studying its lead preclinical compounds for treatment of unspecified cancers, the companies said. EpiTherapeutics’ treatments are based on research by Professor Kristian Helin, Ph.D., and his group at Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at University of Copenhagen, where he is founding director.

The deal with Gilead, subject to purchase price adjustments, will be financed through available cash on hand, the companies said.

Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, EpiTherapeutics was launched in 2008 with initial financing that grew a year later to DKK 15 million ($3 million at the time, about $2.3 million today), including investment by Denmark’s biggest venture capital seed fund, SEED Capital Denmark, and Novo Seeds. Since then, Epitherapeutics has won investment from the VC arms of several biopharma giants, including Astellas Venture Management, Lundbeckfond Emerge, and Merck KGaA’s MS Ventures.

In 2010, EpiTherapeutics launched a collaboration with Abbott of undisclosed value to co-develop drugs against selected epigenetic oncology targets.








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