Drug Development

Amgen beefs up cardio pipeline, adding a $673M RNAi deal with Arrowhead

Last May, Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals CEO Chris Anzalone turned up at a scientific conference in Nashville to talk up some of the company’s preclinical RNAi work on cardiovascular disease.

Sean Harper, Executive Vice President, Research and Development

Sean Harper, Executive Vice President, Research and Development

Working with mice and monkeys, investigators for the biotech demonstrated that a subcutaneously delivered therapy dubbed ARC-LPA demonstrated some real potential for knocking down levels of apolipoprotein(a), a key component of lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a).

The drug was able to slash Lp(a) by up to 98% over 6 weeks in the animal stage of the research program, which was touted as a sign of effectiveness as well as durability.

Evidently, the scientists at Amgen, where cardio is a key part of the pipeline strategy, were paying very close attention to this very early-stage work.

In two separate pacts, Amgen gained the worldwide rights to ARC-LPA as well as an option on a second, undisclosed cardio program.

To close the deal Amgen $AMGN handed over $35 million in cash for the upfront plus a $21.5 million equity payment and promised to pay up to $617 million in milestones. Add it all up, it comes to $673.5 million.

Investors warmed to the news, sending Arrowhead shares $ARWR up 13%.

Amgen’s business development team has been adding a few different deals on the cardio side of the portfolio. Last fall the big biotech struck a $1.55 billion package deal — with $300 million up front — to buy Dezima and its CETP cholesterol drug. It partnered with Cytokinetics in 2007 on heart muscle activators and company execs recently highlighted its interest in hunting up more deals as they follow up on the launch of the PCSK9 drug Repatha.

Sean Harper, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen, had this to say:

“This collaboration builds upon our commitment to cardiovascular disease with targets that we believe are uniquely suited for RNAi-based therapy.”

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