Drug Development

Sorrento’s new pain player Scintilla going solo after $200M buyout deal

Sorrento’s new pain drug subsidiary Scintilla is spinning out as a solo operation after the San Diego-based biotech bagged its second acquisition deal in a matter of days, snapping up Semnur Pharmaceuticals for $60 million in cash and stock and a set of milestones worth up to $140 million.  The latest deal gives Scintilla a back pain program on the threshold of Phase III along with some new pipeline boasting rights as it lays claim to becoming a “major player” in the turbulent pain medication market.

Once the deal goes through, Sorrento says that Scintilla will be set up to operate as a standalone company. Sorrento’s pipeline is calibrated around cancer and the booming immuno-oncology field, along with autoimmune diseases.

Semnur — which had been scouting for ex-US partners — represents a trend in pain drug development. With an epidemic of opioid abuse rattling federal and state officials from coast-to-coast, the biotech has been developing non-opioid pain drugs that hope to one day replace or supplement the effective but enormously problematic opioid class.

And it’s looking for a de-risked development strategy. Its lead drug is an epidural steroid injectable designed to treat back pain.

Sorrento execs got this spinout underway with a deal to acquire Malvern, PA-based Scilex a week ago for $70 million in stock, acquiring its lidocaine patch for shingles pain and a tech platform that can be applied to other ailments as well. And it preceded the effort two months ago with a $150 million private placement led by Ally Bridge Group.

Sorrento, which is closely aligned with Patrick Soon-Shiong’s network of biotech companies, has been wheeling and dealing its way through several deals. A month ago the biotech struck a deal to partner with France’s Servier on its PD-1 checkpoint program for STI-A1110.

Sorrento CEO Henry Ji

Sorrento CEO Henry Ji

“Semnur represents a unique asset for Scintilla that is highly complementary to its existing assets. Semnur’s pipeline of multiple late-stage and near commercialization product opportunities targets some of the largest pain markets available and addresses critical unmet medical needs,” said Sorrento CEO Henry Ji.  “Upon completion of the pending acquisitions and integrations of Semnur and Scilex, Scintilla will immediately become a truly unique pain management company with a multiple product pipeline and an experienced management team led by Jaisim Shah from Semnur and Anthony Mack from Scilex.”

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