Its sale to Allergan was called off at the last minute. One year later, a biotech co-founded by Henri Termeer finds a new buyer
Lysosomal Therapeutics went into JP Morgan 2017 with a sale all but sealed. With $100 million upfront and a $48 million cash infusion to execute on the R&D plan, Allergan lined up an exclusive option to buy the Cambridge, MA-based biotech once the Phase I safety and proof-of-concept data for its lead drug are in.
The team delivered the results by the end of 2018, CEO Kees Been recalled, and after several months of negotiations they had shaken hands over a June buyout.
“We had agreed to be acquired by Allergan,” he told Endpoints News. “And of course just a few days before they were supposed to acquire us, they announced their acquisition by AbbVie which basically terminated the deal.”
At the urging of investors, he spent the next year scouting a new buyer for LTI’s slate of experimental Parkinson’s disease treatment, led by a glucocerebrosidase enzyme activator. The company finally settled on BIAL, a Portuguese pharma company that’s looking to set up a new research center in the US.
Been is keeping the upfront under wraps, but disclosed that milestones would add up to $130 million.
All six staffers at LTI, including Been and CSO Peter Lansbury, have been retained to run the newly established BIAL Biotech.
Although the name has changed, the emphasis remains on the programs that LTI already has going, which are all driven by genetic targets.
The lead program, BIA 28-6156 or LTI-291, focuses on activating one enzyme that’s lacking in Parkinson’s disease patients with certain GBA mutations.
“By normalizing enzyme activity you restore the lysosomal function in the cell,” he said. “With that you restore the glycosphingolipids lipid metabolism in the cells of the brain, which should lead to a disease modifying effect which hopefully translates into reducing the progression of the disease.”
The plan for BIAL Biotech is to go straight into Phase II in the second half of 2021 once they nab an IND in the US (the early clinical work was done in the Netherlands), set up registries at clinical sites to identify the right patients and complete long-term tox work.
One of the ways the parent BIAL stood out from other pharma suitors, Been added, was that they agreed with this plan while others insisted on doing an extra study with a brain imaging agent.
While this marks BIAL’s first official US footprint, the Portuguese drugmaker also boasts of two out-licensed drugs available in the country: Neurocrine’s Ongentys, an add-on treatment to levodopa/carbidopa in patients with Parkinson’s disease experiencing “off” episodes; and the partial seizures drug Aptiom now marketed by Sunovion.
But it’s keen to go deeper into Parkinson’s by leveraging growing knowledge of genetic mutations to craft a targeted approach, Been said.
“They want to become a leader or a major player in the field of Parkinson’s disease focused on all these subsegments of Parkinson’s disease,” he said.
That could also mean partnering on geographies where BIAL, whose neurological portfolio is already available in Europe, isn’t quite as active.
Co-founded by Henri Termeer and Bob Carpenter, LTI has accrued a stellar slate of investors over the years, including Hatteras Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, Lilly Ventures, Sanofi-Genzyme BioVentures, Roche Venture Fund and Partners Innovation Fund.