Novo bags €430M Staten buyout option to boost cardiovascular disease pipeline

Novo Nordisk has landed an option to buy Staten Biotechnology in a €430 million ($485 million) deal. The agreement gives Novo the chance to add an anti-apoC3 antibody treatment for abnormal lipid levels to its pipeline.

Staten has quietly established itself in the Dutch biotech scene over the past four years. Over that time, Staten has raised money from closely linked VC shops BioGeneration Ventures and Forbion and licensed an anti-apoC3 antibody from argenx. That antibody, STT-5058, has now attracted the interest of Novo.

Under the terms of the deal, Novo will support the development of STT-5058 in dyslipidemia, a set of cardiological conditions characterized by abnormal lipid levels. The deal is worth up to €430 million in signing and exercise fees, R&D funding and milestone payments.

Novo’s interest in the program is underpinned by the role apoC3 plays in hypertriglyceridemia, the form of dyslipidemia characterized by high levels of triglycerides in the blood. As apoC3 inhibits the breakdown of fats and clearance of triglyceride-rich lipoprotein, Staten thinks a drug aimed at the protein could yield cardiovascular benefits beyond those achieved by statins and PCSK9 antagonists. 

Staten took the program through early-stage research with argenx in a collaboration that pooled their respective expertise in dyslipidemia assays and antibody development. By the time Staten took up its option on STT-5058 in March 2017, the partners had moved the asset into preclinical development and had one eye on the start of first-in-human testing.

Now, as Staten moves toward that milestone, it will benefit from financial and developmental support from Novo. In return, Novo will gain a close look at a candidate that could further its ongoing efforts to diversify its business beyond the highly competitive diabetes market.

"Our partnership with Staten Biotechnology is a key step in executing our strategic priority to expand into cardiovascular diseases,” Novo Senior Vice President Marcus Schindler said in a statement. “Hypertriglyceridemia is a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease, in particular often present in people with diabetes and obesity.”

The overlap between hypertriglyceridemia and diabetes and obesity—important therapeutic areas for Novo—and evidence that STT-5058 may improve improve insulin resistance puts the drug in the Danish company’s sweetspot.