Biogen Idec scores lung disease drug in $562.5M buyout of Stromedix

Biogen Idec ($BIIB) has scooped up a biotech very close to home. The Weston, MA-based biotech power has bought nearby Stromedix, whose lead fibrosis drug STX-100 was licensed from Biogen. The deal brings Cambridge, MA-based Stromedix's investors, which have invested $38 million in the company, $75 million upfront and up to $487.5 million in potential milestones.

The buyout comes after Biogen CEO George Scangos (pictured) remodeled the company's early- and midstage pipeline. He and his team have cut more than a dozen programs and exited oncology and cardiology drug development. With an interest in fibrosis and a need for midstage assets, Biogen's Stromedix acquisition gives it the startup's lead program in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Stromedix CEO Michael Gilman, a former EVP of R&D at Biogen, said his company is now recruiting patients for the midstage IPF trial for the antibody STX-100. In addition, he and his team will become Biogen employees and lead fibrosis research at the company.

"They know the program, they understand it, and they love it as much as we do," Gilman told FierceBiotech. "That was important for me at the end of the day to find the right home for this program and for the team. And it doesn't really get much better than Biogen."

Stromedix has patiently advanced its STX-100 program in recent years as a number of its counterparts in the fibrosis field have been gobbled up. For example, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) bought San Diego-based Amira Pharmaceuticals last year in part to gain its experimental drug for IPF. Prior to that deal, Gilead Sciences ($GILD) boosted its stake in the fibrosis field through its buyout of Arresto. The market for drugs against IPF, which causes a buildup of scarring in the lungs that causes breathing problems and eventual organ failure, remains pretty wide open, as there are no FDA-approved treatments.

Stromedix's venture backers--which included New Leaf Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Red Abbey Venture Partners, Atlas Venture and Frazier Healthcare Ventures--now can claim a victory in backing early-stage biotechs. Especially Atlas, where Gilman formed the startup as an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cambridge, MA, venture firm after leaving Biogen.

"We weren't really trying to sell the [Stromedix]," Peter Barrett, a partner at Atlas, told FierceBiotech. "A lot of people were watching this and saying that it would be interesting after Phase II. But Biogen came along" with an offer that made sense.

Now Stromedix won't have to worry about raising additional funds to develop STX-100 for multiple types of fibrosis. It's still early in the development of the antibody, but if it makes it to market, Biogen could win big on its Stromedix bet.

- here's the release