In late January, Altus Pharmaceuticals became yet another biotech company to fall victim to the economic crisis. The Waltham, MA-company announced that it would cut jobs and narrow its research focus to a single program. As part of that plan, Altus decided to return development of Phase III cystic fibrosis drug Trizytek to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics.
Altus' loss was Alnara's gain. Alnara Pharmaceuticals president and CEO Alexey Margolin was a veteran of Altus and had worked on the Trizytek program during his time at the company. He left Altus last year and, after rounding up $20 million in financing, founded Alnara Pharmaceuticals. This morning the Cambridge, MA-based start-up announced that it bought the exclusive worldwide rights to liprotamase (Trizytek), from Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics.
When FierceBiotech last talked to Margolin he was the sole employee of tiny Alnara, but overnight the company has been transformed from a small start-up to a developer completing a Phase III trial and preparing to file an NDA. "When we learned that Altus transferring Trizytek back to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation it was great opportunity," said Margolin in an interview with FierceBiotech. "It fits our focus very well. It's based on what we discussed all along, but it's a mature asset at the end of Phase III trials. This was a rare opportunity transform the company just six months after foundation."
Liprotamase is an oral, porcine-free pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will cover the cost of until Phase III test are completed. In the next 10 days Alnara is hiring on 20 people--mostly consultants--who are already working on the project. Results from that trial will probably come this summer and be presented in the fall. Margolin would not disclose the financial details of the deal but says that Alnara still has most of the $20 million it initially raised. "If we are disciplined in spending it will give us a pretty long runway. We are discussing now what what will be the next step but haven't made a decision yet."
"The reason we were so attracted to program is because we know it so well," explain Margolin. "It's kind of like a homecoming. We'd been working for many years on this program at Altus. The end has not been written yet, but hopefully it will be a happy one."
- see Alnara's release