- Amgen on Tuesday said it will buy privately held Rodeo Therapeutics to gain access to a preclinical program that holds the promise of promoting tissue repair and regeneration.
- Rodeo stakeholders will receive $55 million upfront, plus as much as $666 million in future milestone payments. Rodeo’s board and shareholders of the Seattle-based company have already approved the transaction, Amgen said.
- The smaller company is developing therapies designed to stimulate the body’s repair processes by inhibiting an enzyme called 15-prostaglandin dehydrogenase, or 15-PGDH. Rodeo late last year said it had zeroed in on RTX-1688, an oral treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, and was preparing for studies needed to bring the candidate to human testing.
Amgen has recently stepped up its dealmaking activity as it tries to bolster its pipeline of treatments for cancer and inflammation. Earlier this month, the California biotech announced plans to pay $1.9 billion for Five Prime Therapeutics, which is focused on oncology.
It’s all part of the remaking of Amgen, as the company’s groundbreaking initial therapies and more recent top sellers face increased competition. Amgen was a pioneer of the biotechnology industry, winning U.S. approval in 1989 for the anti-anemia drug Epogen, the first blockbuster medicine in the field.
More recently, the company has sought to expand its cancer drug business, investing heavily in a closely watched drug that targets the cancer-linked gene KRAS.
As for Rodeo, Amgen said it sees a “strong strategic fit” with its inflammation portfolio. Preclinical research suggests that 15-PGDH modulators could work against multiple diseases, Amgen said.
Rodeo focuses on disrupting 15-PGDH, which can degrade the hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins that play a critical role in the body. Animal studies found higher levels of the prostaglandin PGE2 helped protect against colitis, promote liver regeneration and speed up the reconstitution of hematopoietic stem cells after a bone marrow transplant, according to Rodeo.
For Rodeo investors, the deal represents a potential windfall. The venture capital firm Accelerator Life Science Partners started Rodeo in July 2017 to build on the work of researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Accelerator announced a $5.9 million Series A financing in 2017, with investors including AbbVie Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners and Eli Lilly. Rodeo brought in about $8 million more in an offering reported in March 2019 in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.