Gilead takes aim at diabetic kidney disease with $109M Goldfinch deal

Gilead Sign
Under the deal, Goldfinch will lead discovery and development until Gilead licenses a program or programs. At that point, the Big Pharma will take over development and commercialization. (Gilead)

Three weeks after striking a NASH partnership with Insitro, Gilead is turning its sights to diabetic kidney disease (DKD). In a $109 million deal, Gilead and Goldfinch Bio will use the latter’s Kidney Genome Atlas to identify and validate targets for DKD and “certain orphan kidney diseases.” 

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Goldfinch Bio aims to use a precision medicine approach to better treat kidney disease. Its pipeline is based on its Kidney Genome Atlas, a patient registry containing genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data with thousands of anonymized clinical patient profiles. It uses the database to identify mutations or sequence genetic variants that occur in patients with kidney disease. 

In addition to a $55 million upfront fee—that includes a $5 million equity investment—Gilead will pay Goldfinch $54 million to support the development of the Kidney Genome Atlas for DKD, also known as diabetic nephropathy. 

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RELATED: In conversation with Tony Johnson, CEO of Goldfinch Bio

With the cash, Goldfinch will expand the database “by an order of tenfold, to tens of thousands of patients,” Goldfinch CEO Tony Johnson told FierceBiotech. “This will allow us to expand it dramatically to include patients with diabetic kidney disease and be able to compare them with patients with diabetes who don’t have kidney disease.” 

“By expanding the sample size, this will increase our ability to identify novel causes of diabetic nephropathy, or diabetic kidney disease,” he said. 

Goldfinch will also test drugs against those targets in kidney cells and kidney organoids created from human stem cells. Its biology platform also includes in vivo organoids, where researchers implant these organoids under the kidney capsule of animals, Johnson said in a previous interview. 

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Under the deal, Goldfinch will lead discovery and development until Gilead licenses a program or programs. At that point, the Big Pharma will take over development and commercialization. 

And that’s not all: “The deal allows for Goldfinch to lead development  on at least one rare disease development program and to share 50% in a co-development, co-promotion deal with Gilead on all of the rare disease programs that come out of it, [as well as] on up to two of the diabetic kidney disease programs,” Johnson said. 

These would be separate from Goldfinch’s in-house pipeline, which includes two programs targeting DKD and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare disease with no approved treatments that affects the kidney’s filtering units, called glomeruli. 

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Though $109 million is a sizable sum for a discovery effort, Goldfinch could end up with much more. If Gilead pursues five programs that emerge from the partnership, Goldfinch could earn up to $1.95 billion in potential research, development, regulatory and sales milestones. 

“We said five targets because that would be realistic,” Johnson said. “But if we modeled more targets, what the collaboration is worth goes up significantly. The key message is this collaboration is limited by time and not by the number of targets. We have ways of accelerating this, which would be good for Goldfinch and good for Gilead.” 

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