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Eleven Bio, Still Breathing, Sells Eye Drug to Roche

Xconomy Boston — 

[Corrected, 6/14/16, see below] Eleven Biotherapeutics’s (NASDAQ: EBIO) may be in strategic limbo, but today it’s gotten some cash to help figure out its next steps.

The Cambridge, MA-based company licensed EBI-031, an experimental, preclinical drug it’s been developing for eye diseases like diabetic macular edema and uveitis, to Swiss pharma giant Roche. Eleven got $7.5 million up front, with another $20 million to $22.5 million coming if EBI-031 is cleared to begin human clinical trials. The exact amount depends on when this happens, but Eleven filed an application with the FDA earlier today to begin these studies. Eleven could see $262.5 million in total if EBI-031 hits a variety of milestones. EBI-031 is a protein drug meant to be injected into the back of the eye. It binds to an inflammatory molecule known as interleukin 6. [An earlier version of this story described EBI-031 as an eye drop.]

Shares of Eleven nearly doubled in pre-market trading, from a $1.87 close on Friday to $3.54 as of 9 a.m. ET.

It’s unclear what the future holds for Eleven, meanwhile. The company’s former lead drug, isunakinra, failed two Phase 3 trials in dry eye disease and conjunctivitis, leading Eleven to shelve the drug altogether in January and begin evaluating what a spokesperson termed “various business development and financing approaches.” Its cash was meant to develop EBI-031, but Roche will now take the lead. Eleven CEO Abbie Celniker said in a statement that the company will “continue to evaluate additional strategic alternatives with a goal to maximize shareholder value.” Eleven is working with an investment bank and is considering everything from an outright sale to divesting assets one by one.

Eleven sold off a technology used for drug delivery to Albumedix in January, and paid off its outstanding debt to Silicon Valley Bank in March. The company had $13.4 million in cash at the end of that month.

Here’s more on Eleven, its founding, and its original strategic goals.