GlaxoSmithKline Scoops Up Sirtris

Zhoop! It’s the sound of another prominent local biotech company being acquired by a far-away pharmaceutical giant.

Last week it was Millennium, which was snapped up by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals for $8.8 billion. This time it’s Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SIRT), a company we’ve covered regularly, which is about to become part of London and Philadelphia-based GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK).

After the markets closed today, GSK announced a $720 million cash tender offer for Sirtris, or $22.50 per share, representing an 84 percent premium over Sirtris’s closing price today of $12.23.

Sirtris focuses on developing drugs that treat diseases related to metabolism and aging, such as Type 2 diabetes, by activating a class of enzymes called sirtuins. It has a single drug candidate, SRT501, in early safety-and-dosing trials as a potential diabetes treatment.

SRT501 is a proprietary formulation of resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine that has been shown by Sirtris founder David Sinclair to activate sirtuins in lab animals, mimicking the age-retarding effects of calorie restriction. The company is developing other chemicals unrelated to resveratrol that are more powerful activators of the sirtuins, but none have yet reached clinical trials in humans.

According to a press release, Sirtris will become part of GSK’s Drug Discovery operation and will operate as an autonomous unit, based in Cambridge, under the leadership of current CEO Christoph Westphal.

We expect this transaction will accelerate our vision to target sirtuins to treat diseases of metabolism and ageing and deliver tremendous value to patients, our shareholders and our employees,” Westphal said in the press release. “We look forward to working with GlaxoSmithKline and their world-class research, development and commercialization organization.”

Update 6:40 p.m. April 22, 2008: We just reached Michelle Dipp, Sirtris’s director of corporate development, by telephone and have published a brief Q&A about the acquisition.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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