Kineta Acquires Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes Drug Candidates to Test Unusual Biotech Strategy

7/8/09Follow @xconomy

Seattle-based Kineta doesn’t want to grow up to be the next Amgen. It has seen plenty of biotech companies go up in flames when they try to do everything from drug discovery to development, and manufacturing to marketing. Instead, the company sees opportunity in carving out one piece of that product development continuum, doing it well, and hopefully making some money.

Sound odd? It’s all part of an unusual business plan at Kineta, a company formed last year by CEO Charles Magness and chief scientist Shawn Iadonato, who worked together at Seattle-based Illumigen before that company was sold to Lexington, MA-based Cubist Pharmaceuticals. I sat down with them last week at their new offices in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood to hear about the company strategy and its initial case-study—drug candidates it acquired for autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes.

The company was founded on the basic idea that there is a great supply of drug candidates in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the preclinical (animal testing) phase, but little demand for those products until someone generates evidence they work in human trials, Iadonato says. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s great demand from patients for new therapies, but a slim supply of really promising drugs in the late stages of development to meet the demand. The Kineta group, through work at Illumigen and other companies, showed they were skilled at taking relatively untested drugs through the late preclinical and early-stage clinical trials—steps that often trip up larger companies, and take a lot longer than they think.

So the Kineta concept is to cast about for promising drug candidates in animal tests, acquire licenses for pretty modest terms, run them through early-stage clinical trials on a strict budget of time and money, and then form a partnership with a bigger drugmaker who has the money and manpower to run bigger trials needed to win FDA approval for a new drug. If all goes as planned, Kineta will collect the usual upfront payments on these deals, milestones from success in later development, and royalties on product sales if they ever become marketed products. And they’ll repeat the cycle many times over. Essentially, they plan to do a couple of essential drug development steps well, and let other people try to be the next Amgen or Genentech.

“A lot of biotechs are built on ill-defined timelines, and ill-defined amounts of investment, … Next Page »

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