GSK, after 11-month romance, buys oligonucleotide partner Elsie for up to $50M

After taking 11 months to get to know Elsie Biotechnologies' oligonucleotide platform, GSK is ready to tie the knot with a $50 million deal to acquire the West Coast biotech. 

Elsie entered into a research collaboration with GSK in July 2023. The agreement positioned the companies to explore the potential of Elsie’s oligonucleotide discovery platform. Throughout the initial research term, GSK could option a non-exclusive license from Elsie for discovery and chemistry technologies to use in its own oligonucleotide drug discovery research. GSK took up the option in February.

Four months later, GSK is following in the footsteps of Victor “I liked it so much, I bought the company” Kiam. The drugmaker has paid up to $50 million to turn its non-exclusive license to Elsie’s technologies into full ownership of the biotech. Tony Wood, chief scientific officer at GSK, explained the thinking. 

“We ... are thrilled to work alongside the talented team at Elsie to accelerate a next-generation oligonucleotide platform,” Wood said in a statement. “By bringing together Elsie’s expertise and our internal capabilities, we can design and develop oligonucleotides for difficult-to-treat diseases of scale with larger patient populations.”

GSK plans to combine data generated using the Elsie platform with its artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. The company said the combination will support development of predictive models for future oligonucleotide design.

New candidates will slot into an oligonucleotide pipeline led by potential treatments of chronic hepatitis B and steatotic liver disease. GSK has tipped its hepatitis B prospect bepirovirsen, which is on track to deliver phase 3 data in 2026, to become the new standard care in the infectious disease. GSK bolstered its oligonucleotide capabilities by partnering with Wave Life Sciences late in 2022.