United’s Martine Rothblatt endorses a biotech unicorn’s CEO and antes up for US rights to an IPF drug
United Therapeutics Martine Rothblatt has joined the pack of admirers backing one of the industry’s most intriguing biotech unicorns.
Just a few months after gaining a whopping $438 million round on a $12 billion valuation — with little hard data to show so far — San Diego-based Samumed is outlicensing an early-stage drug for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis to United for $10 million in cash and up to $340 million in milestones in a heavily back-ended deal.
In the deal, United subsidiary Lung Biotechnology has the rights to develop SM04646, a Wnt pathway inhibitor, for the US and Canadian markets. Lung will now take over the R&D work needed to eventually seek an approval in North America — if it gets that far.
United’s upfront amounts to little more than tip money for Samumed at this point. The 10-year-old biotech has focused considerable attention on its regenerative med work, and CEO Osman Kibar has not been reluctant to promote its work.
“We’re sitting on a goldmine, and this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Kibar said recently.
Rothblatt — no slouch either at talking up her prospects — gave a thumbs up to Kibar in the deal.
“I’ve been impressed with Samumed’s exhaustive work on the pleiotropic Wnt pathway from the time I met Dr. Kibar at this year’s Cura Foundation conference on regenerative medicine, held at the Vatican,” said Rothblatt. “Our months of due diligence have energized our belief in SM04646’s fibrosis-modulating properties, and hence unique potential for addressing IPF.”
Image: Martine Rothblatt. AP IMAGES