MorphoSys swoops for Lanthio as biotech investment plan matures

MorphoSys (ETR:MOR) has acquired Lanthio Pharma. The deal comes 30 months after MorphoSys originally hooked up with Lanthio, which was the first company to receive an investment from its biotech financing initiative.

MorphoSys CEO Simon Moroney

Munich, Germany-based MorphoSys first took a stake in Lanthio in November 2012 when it joined with INKEF Capital, BioGeneration Ventures and Hanzepoort for a €4.8 million ($5.4 million) Series A round. Now, with Lanthio set to move its lead candidate into the clinic next year, MorphoSys has decided it is the right time to buy the remaining 80% of the company for €20 million. The lead drug--which MorphoSys will rename MOR107--is a selective angiotensin II type 2 receptor agonistic lanthipeptide that Lanthio thinks has the potential to treat various fibrotic diseases.

MorphoSys agrees. "The lead compound LP2 has the potential to be a first-in-class treatment for various fibrotic diseases and thus represents a commercially attractive opportunity," MorphoSys CEO Simon Moroney said in a statement. Lanthio made diabetic nephropathy the focus of the preclinical development of LP2, but it also sees the asset as a potential treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Groningen, the Netherlands-based Lanthio gathered IPF animal model data before putting its resources into diabetic nephropathy.

The deal is a low-cost long shot for MorphoSys, but it gives a few insights into its investment plan. MorphoSys began shaping a strategy to funnel its technology platforms, expertise and cash into startups around the time of the Lanthio investment in 2012 but has been slow to follow up on that initial deal. With Lanthio now moving from close collaborator to in-house team, MorphoSys has confirmed it is still looking for reasons to get out its checkbook. "We will continue to look for opportunities to invest and collaborate with biopharmaceutical start-ups," CFO Jens Holstein said.

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