Molecular PET agent developer Blue Earth Diagnostics has been picked up by the Italian multinational Bracco, which will take in the company as a subsidiary under its medical imaging banner.
Blue Earth’s previous owner, the London-based healthcare group Syncona, traded its outstanding shares in the company to Bracco for $450 million, plus an estimated closing adjustment of $25 million.
The acquisition revolves around the company’s first approved and commercialized molecular imaging agent, Axumin (fluciclovine F 18), an injection that helps PET scans spot recurrent prostate cancer. Bracco described the purchase as a boost to its personalized diagnostics portfolio, slotting in alongside its offerings in X-ray, CT and MRI imaging, as well as in interventional radiology, cardiac catheterization and contrast-enhanced ultrasound.
As a subsidiary, the Oxford, U.K.-based Blue Earth and its roughly 100 employees will retain the company name and continue with its current leadership.
“We believe this acquisition is excellent for Blue Earth as Bracco Imaging’s global footprint and clinical research and marketing support will enable us to expand the reach of our high-value platform of innovative radiopharmaceuticals to inform clinical management and guide care for even more people with cancer around the world,” Blue Earth CEO Jonathan Allis said in a statement.
In its development pipeline, Blue Earth is also exploring Axumin’s use in diagnosing other cancers, including glioma, which demonstrated positive results in a phase 3 study late last year. The imaging agent consists of the synthetic amino acid fluciclovine and a fluoride radioisotope tag, which is used to help PET scans visualize increases in amino acid transport within tumors.
In April 2018, Blue Earth expanded its prostate cancer work by acquiring the rights to a tagged radiohybrid technology from Scintomics: a compound that targets the prostate-specific membrane antigen and is taken up by prostate cancer cells. Though similarly labeled with the fluoride radioisotope for use in PET imaging, the company says that marker could be potentially swapped out for radioisotopes of actinium or lutetium for use as a therapeutic, though that has not been clinically studied.
Just hours before the acquisition deal was announced, Blue Earth detailed early data from the compound’s initial clinical proof-of-concept studies, demonstrating a 94% detection rate among patients whose prostate cancer returned after primary radiation therapy, and between 63.8% and 79.5% among patients with varying PSA levels who underwent a radical prostatectomy. The agent also showed a diagnostic accuracy of 86% for staging patients with high-risk primary prostate cancer.
At the same time, Blue Earth reported that its Axumin diagnostic showed a positive predictive value of 88.2% in a retrospective analysis of patients with glioma, alongside detection and sensitivity rates of 100%.
“We are so proud of our exceptional, patient-focused team for building a successful radiopharmaceuticals business in only five years,” said Allis. “This acquisition provides us the tremendous opportunity to grow and expand Axumin, and our innovative pipeline, geographically and into other therapeutic targets.”