Deals

Astellas forges a $390M deal to buy a biotech focused on Ronald Evans’ ‘exercise-in-a-pill’ tech

Ron Evans

For years now, Salk’s Ron Evans — a celebrated serial entrepreneur in scientific circles — has been concentrating on the potential of a new pathway for turning your average couch potato rodent into Mighty Mouse — without exercise. And now Astellas has stepped in to buy the Cambridge, MA-based biotech that was one of the early enthusiasts for this technology and its potential application in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Already a partner and equity investor in Mitobridge, Astellas is paying $165.5 million more in cash — added to about $60 million in equity it already owns — to acquire the mitochondria energy specialists, along with another $225 million in milestones.

The deal follows an option deal with Mitobridge that dates back to 2013. The other major shareholders in Mitobridge are MPM Capital and Longwood Founders Fund. Mitobridge will now become a subsidiary of Astellas.

Astellas’ interest has been kept as Mitobridge pursued its early-stage work on MA-211, now in Phase I.

A couple of years ago the biotech in-licensed preclinical tech developed by Evans on PPARδ, a pathway he feels could trigger the health benefits of a rigorous exercise regime, without the actual exercise. Evans recently completed his preclinical work, saying he had perfected the approach in mice.

Evans identified the drug as GW1516, a version of which has been circulating as a supplement among athletes looking for an illicit boost in performance. GSK had the drug and dropped it more than a decade ago after serious side effects, including cancer, appeared in the mice it was used on.

That pathway — if properly used and developed without the toxicity — could have profound implications in DMD, a crippling disease that leaves boys in wheel chairs at an early age, before slowly killing them. Sarepta obtained a controversial approval for its drug for Duchenne, but the field is considered wide open for any biotech that could provide more substantial benefits.



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