Expansive Sosei lays out a $534M acquisition plan for the ambitious saRNA biotech MiNA

After swooping in to buy Heptares a couple of years ago in a $400 million deal, Sosei has put a new acquisition play in motion. This morning CEO Peter Bains at Sosei took the first step toward a new buyout, snagging 25.6% of the equity of MiNA Therapeutics and an exclusive option to acquire the company for $45 million in cash.

Right now MiNA is putting its small activating RNA (saRNA) technology to a Phase I/IIa test in liver cancer. If the trial works, following an established schedule of milestones, Sosei can complete the deal for another $180 million in cash plus $309 million more in milestones — for a total of $534 million.

The way Bains explains the deal, Sosei is taking another step toward creating a global company, based in Japan and pursuing biotechs with a global reach of their own.

Robert Habib, MiNA CEO

Just after Allergan and Pfizer went their separate ways in early 2016, for example, Allergan chose to seed an ambitious development pact with Heptares on new drugs to address the cognitive decline and behavioral issues associated with Alzheimer’s. Then Heptares swooped in to buy GPCR tech in an acquisition of Switzerland’s G7 earlier this year, which was quickly rewarded with a pact from Daiichi Sankyo.

Now Sosei wants to take a step-by-step approach to finding out if MiNA can boost its pipeline with a new slate of its saRNA therapeutics, which adopts a new approach to kicking messenger RNA into action to create new drugs — proteins — using the body’s cells as a manufacturing center. But it’s not just diving in all at once. Bains wants to see some data before coming back for the whole thing.

MiNA brought together a group of investigators like Long-Chen Li, Harvard’s David Corey and Nagy Habib at Imperial who have been developing their RNA tech to trigger protein production to address specific ailments. And their first clinical endeavor for MTL-CEBPA marks a shot at treatment-resistant liver cancer — an ambitious target.

Messenger RNA is a nascent field, but it’s growing fast. Moderna raised a whopping $1.9 billion for its work, before seeing the first snapshot of human data. Germany’s CureVac is also hot on the trail.

Says Bains:

We believe MTL-CEBPA could allow us to advance our pipeline strategy with a novel clinical asset that could be developed and ultimately commercialized by Sosei. We recognize that this asset is early stage and that more robust data will be available in the near term; these considerations have influenced the prudent and phased deal structure. We also believe that MiNA’s RNA activation platform can be applied to other gene targets, providing the opportunity to create a pipeline of innovative products.

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