Ipsen picks up option to buy Canbex once PhIIa data rolls in

Ipsen (EPA:IPN) has handed over €6 million ($6.8 million) for the option to buy British biotech Canbex Therapeutics. The French biopharma will decide whether to pull the trigger after getting a look at Phase IIa data on Canbex's lead candidate, a small molecule treatment for spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

Ipsen CEO Marc de Garidel

If Ipsen is convinced by the clinical proof-of-concept data, Canbex's shareholders will receive up to €90 million more in upfront and milestone payments. Ipsen sees the drug--VSN16R--as potentially complementary to Dysport, which is nearing a possible approval as a treatment for muscle spasticity in the upper and lower limbs of adults and children. The presence of two mid- to late-phase spasticity therapies in its pipeline would give Ipsen the makings of a franchise in the niche.

For that to happen, VSN16R must first successfully negotiate Phase IIa. London, U.K.-based Canbex has moved VSN16R through early development on a relatively meagre budget, having last raised cash to finance its 72-person Phase I trial. Merck KGaA's VC wing--MS Ventures--contributed to the £2.3 million Series A round in 2013 alongside the Wellcome Trust and UCL Business, a tech-transfer firm affiliated to University College London.

Canbex set up shop in 2005 with the goal of developing VSN16R without burning through too much cash. The company is led by a small team with industry and financial experience who receive support from a trio of London-based academics: David Selwood, David Baker and Gavin Giovannoni. Collectively, the group have overseen work performed by CROs Charles River Laboratories ($CRL) and Quintiles ($Q) to edge VSN16R to the point at which it has been able to attract a potential buyer.

- read the release

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