Deals, Startups

Gurnet Point-backed Boston Pharmaceuticals supercharges pipeline with twin deals grabbing top cast-offs from GSK, Novartis

The executive crew at Boston Pharmaceuticals has been busy.

In one 48-hour stretch they completed two big in-licensing deals with a pair of the world’s pharma giants — Novartis and GSK — which will double the size of their clinical pipeline with 4 new therapies and a slate of late-preclinical efforts that should bring the total number of programs in human trials to a dozen by the end of next year.

In the process, they’ve been adding just slightly to the small team at the company, which was gifted with a $600 million bankroll by Gurnet Point Capital, whose chief — ex-Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher — stepped in as chairman of the board.

Right now, the staff tally is just under 30, says Rob Armstrong, the Eli Lilly vet who runs the company. 

They’ve already divvied up these new assets, which includes some of the top programs out of Novartis’ translational med group NIBR, which punted its antibacterial and antiviral research programs in Emeryville, CA. last July. For GSK, the drugs include a selection from the 30 therapies that CEO Emma Walmsley put on the auction block as she cleaned house ahead of an R&D revamp.

There are no numbers in this deal, though Armstrong notes that Novartis ended up taking some equity in a subsidiary built for the deal, along with an upfront and milestones and a royalty schedule. As for GSK, he’s just not saying — though typically Big Pharma doesn’t ask for a lot of cash for the drugs it casts off from time to time. In GSK’s case, they all but handed off their gene therapy work, looking only for a continued financial interest.

In this case Boston Pharma’s haul includes:

  • GSK3352589, a small molecule RET inhibitor ready for a Phase II trial in irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea.
  • GSK3008356, a DGAT 1 drug that is being repurposed from NASH to acne.
  • GSK3183475, a BET BD2 “which as a topical formulation has therapeutic potential to treat vitiligo and/or psoriasis and is Phase 1-ready. “

On the Novartis side they are gaining:

  • LYS228, which Boston Pharmaceuticals believes is a potential best-in-class monobactam in Phase II clinical development that has “demonstrated activity against CRE with resistance caused by serine beta-lactamases (SBLs) and/or metallo beta-lactamases (MBLs).”
  • IID572, a novel beta-lactamase inhibitor that may be used in combination with LYS228 or other beta-lactam antibiotics to expand their use against difficult-to-treat infections caused by a broader spectrum of CRE.
  • MAK181, an oral, first-in-class LpxC inhibitor for Pseudomonas infections.

“This is part of a longterm strategy,” ventures a cautious Armstrong, forged 3 years ago when they set out to build a pipeline with 20 drugs in it. “This is a very lean translational medicine platform.” 

Keeping the team small, while relying on a supporting cast of outside experts to handle a lot of the load — was always part of that game plan. With top execs coming out of companies like Lilly and Sanofi, Boston Pharmaceuticals likes the agility of a small, extraordinarily well financed company. And it doesn’t sound like they’re blowing any of the excess on parties and dancing girls.

Also part of the game plan: They are covering the waterfront on diseases and drugs, selecting from a broad range to come up with the therapies they like. One umbrella team covers everything — there’s only one CMO at the company — and they’re steering clear of business models like Roivant, which is establishing fully staffed companies under the guidance of the mother ship.

Long term, the group plans to start selling off most of its assets ahead of Phase III, or in late-stage development if that makes sense.

Others can do the commercial work, once the biotech has plumbed the full value of what’s there.

Image: Rob Armstrong File Photo

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