Galecto to merge with onetime Celgene partner PharmAkea

Galecto's management team. (Galecto)

Galecto is set to merge with PharmAkea. The deal will see Denmark’s Galecto incorporate in the U.S. and add a clinical-phase treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) to its pipeline.

Copenhagen, Denmark-based Galecto is the dominant partner in the transaction, the financial terms of which have not been disclosed. The combined company will take Galecto’s name and be run by the senior management team at the Danish drug developer. Through the deal, Galecto is getting incorporated in the U.S., while keeping its operating headquarters in Denmark, and adding an asset.

The asset is a small molecule LOXL2 inhibitor that PharmAkea is developing as a treatment for IPF and other fibrotic diseases. PharmAkea has actively been trying to outlicense the drug since 2017. 

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PharmAkea made waves early in its history, landing and then extending a deal with Celgene while raising money from Bay City Capital. However, in recent years progress at PharmAkea has slowed. In 2017, PharmAkea posted phase 1 data on LOXL2 inhibitor PAT-1251 and outlined plans to move into phase 2 early the next year. However, the planned phase 2 is yet to start.

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center was gearing up to test PAT-1251 in myelofibrosis patients last year but withdrew the study, stating the “company is in a process of being taken over by another pharma and the new one has different ideas on how to pursue studies with this drug” to explain its action. 

The lull in activity began around when the extended deal with Celgene was due to end in 2017. Later that year, PharmAkea listed PAT-1251 and ATX inhibitor PAT-409 as up for partnering. Last year, Blade Therapeutics bought the company PharmAkea spun out to hold its ATX assets but the wait for a partner for PAT-1251 has dragged on. Galecto sees potential in the long-overlooked program. 

“PharmAkea ... has a highly validated target and an exciting next-generation small molecule inhibitor that is very potent and penetrates the fibrotic tissue. We are very much looking forward to working as a combined entity,” Galecto CEO Hans Schamby said in a statement.

Galecto’s decision to buy the asset comes a little more than one year after it raised €79 million ($88 million) to put its own IPF asset through a late-phase trial. A phase 2b trial of the drug, galectin-3 inhibitor TD139, got underway in February. 

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