SuperGen snags UK's Astex in a $55M M&A deal

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Dublin, CA-based SuperGen has struck a deal to acquire the UK biotech Astex--a 2006 Fierce 15 winner--absorbing its promising drug discovery engine and a string of partnerships that now tie the U.S. biotech to some of the world's largest drug developers. The combined company will focus on an oncology pipeline with seven drugs in development--including four in mid-stage development. Three of its drug programs are partnered with Big Pharma.

In the deal SuperGen ($SUPG) agreed to pay Astex's investors $25 million in cash and shares upfront and adding another $30 million over the next two and a half years. The combined entity will be dubbed Astex Pharmaceuticals, with SuperGen CEO James S.J. Manuso at the helm. The new Astex will have $120 million in cash and a discovery platform that has won deals promising up to $2 billion in milestones.

"We believe the combination of SuperGen and Astex accelerates SuperGen's business model and brings together the people, partnerships, clinical assets, discovery platforms, infrastructures and capital resources to generate significant shareholder value in the years ahead," said SuperGen's Manuso. "The outstanding pipeline and highly regarded drug discovery platform of Astex, coupled with the product candidates, development expertise and capital resources of SuperGen, are expected to give rise to a powerful new entity capable of delivering valuable cancer therapies targeting critical medical needs."

Astex's fragment-based discovery engine uses high-throughput x-ray crystallography to identify drug fragments that bind to target proteins. The technology has lured in a string of pharma companies, including AstraZeneca and Novartis.

- here's the SuperGen-Astex release

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