Vertex scoops up Catalyst's complement pipeline for $60M cash

More the six months after Catalyst Biosciences put a “for sale” sign on its hemophilia program, the company is parting with the rest of its pipeline, selling off its line of preclinical-stage complement therapies to Vertex Pharmaceuticals for $60 million cash.

The deal is contrary to the objectives Catalyst has communicated since first announcing a new business strategy in November 2021. At the time, the company said it was hoping to sell off its hemophilia program to save money and direct future resources solely to the complements portfolio. Catalyst CEO Nassim Usman, Ph.D., had said investing in the complements program was “the optimal strategy going forward.” 

That goal was reiterated in February when the company retained Perella Weinberg Partners as financial advisors to assist with finding a buyer. Usman said the advisors would help “identify partners to accelerate the development of our portfolio of complement assets.” 

Evidently, the company decided to take the money and run. But with the hemophilia program is still up for grabs, and Usman said Monday that the company was continuing to work with its advisors to “evaluate additional strategic alternatives for Catalyst.” 

The program snatched up by Vertex includes four preclinical assets including SQ CB 4332, a treatment for complement factor I (CFI) deficiency, which nabbed a Rare Pediatric Disease Designation from the FDA in January. CFI deficiency diminishes the immune system and makes patients more prone to infections. The pipeline also includes an asset to treat dry age-related macular degeneration that was returned to Catalyst after originally being licensed by Biogen. 

Catalyst’s garage sale had, expectedly, prompted layoffs. In its fourth quarter earnings report from March, the company reported cutting 19 employees, or 70% of its remaining staff. 

The company’s decision to part with its hemophilia program including the lead phase 3 asset, MarzAA, was part of the brutal aftermath of persistent trial-related challenges, which included logistical issues stemming from the pandemic.

The decision naturally shaved off a significant portion of R&D-related costs, with first-quarter 2022 expenses down 43% compared to the year before. The $60 million infusion from Vertex will almost triple the company’s available cash pile, which at the end of the quarter was $34.2 million.