After BMS said no, Roche puts $1.4B on the table for Promedior, boosting fibrotic pipeline

Roche is spending up to $1.4 billion to snap up a scarring-focused biotech, nabbing an FDA breakthrough-tagged therapy in the process.

The Swiss major, known for its work in cancer research, has in recent years been branching out into new areas, notably into idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) with the approval of its drug Esbriet for the lung-scarring disease.

Now, it’s looking to boost its pipeline with Lexington, Massachusetts-based Promedior and its group of experimental meds designed to treat fibrosis (scarring). These all come out of its pentraxin-2 platform that works as an endogenous human protein specifically active at the site of tissue damage.

The private biotech’s clinical lead asset is its midstage PRM-151, a first-in-class recombinant human pentraxin-2, for IPF, and it already has an FDA breakthrough badge while also showing some “promising early clinical trial data,” according to the biotech, in myelofibrosis (MF), with “other fibrotic diseases” also in the crosshairs.

Roche is putting down $390 million in cash upfront with biobucks worth up to $1 billion also in the cards for the company.

But we’ve seen this before: Back in 2015, a similar deal was set up by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which landed the rights to buy out Promedior, paying $150 million upfront and committing a total of $1.25 billion to the deal if PRM-151 was shown to work.

But BMS, now busy with its much larger Celgene acquisition, chose last year not to use its rights to acquire the company; this is usually a death touch for a small biotech, but Roche has clearly seen something it likes and has swooped in with its own deal.  

Jason Lettmann, CEO of Promedior and general partner of Lightstone Ventures, said: “With over a decade of research, development and investment, Promedior has demonstrated the unique ability of its pentraxin-2 platform to deliver disease-modifying potential in fibrotic disorders. Due to Roche's strong expertise in IPF, hematological cancer and other fibrotic disorders, we believe Roche is ideally positioned to bring the potential of our platform to patients and provide new treatment options within these areas of urgent unmet medical need.”

Pentraxin-2 works as an agonist that acts as a macrophage polarization factor to initiate a resolution process for prevention and potential reversal of fibrosis, thereby acting as a master regulator upstream in the fibrosis cascade.

"We are excited to combine Promedior's portfolio with our drug development capabilities to further advance PRM-151 in fibrotic diseases, including IPF and MF,” added James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., global head of Roche Pharma Partnering. “With our proven track record in IPF with Esbriet  as well as in hematological cancers, we are well-positioned to leverage our clinical and commercial expertise to bring PRM-151 to patients as fast as possible.”