Biogen inks a $100M hemophilia deal with a Polaris-backed startup

Biogen ($BIIB) is bringing the Polaris Partners-backed Arsia Therapeutics into its stable of partners, signing a deal worth up to $100 million to research new ways of formulating hemophilia treatments.

Under the agreement, the Cambridge, MA-headquartered Arsia is on board to help Biogen craft hemophilia therapies that can be dosed through subcutaneous injection rather than intravenous infusion. Arsia is in line for an undisclosed upfront payment and as much as $100 million in total if the collaboration results in multiple successes, the companies said.

Arsia co-founder Robert Langer

Co-founded by famed biotech entrepreneur Robert Langer, Arsia has developed protein-formulation technology it says can reduce the viscosity of biological treatments without changing potency, creating a condensed drug product that is easier to administer. The idea is to transform treatments now administered by in-patient infusion procedures into more convenient therapies that can be dosed through autoinjector pens, Arsia said.

And Biogen, working to build a billion-dollar franchise in hemophilia, wants in. The company's two approved therapies, Alprolix and Eloctate, are infused treatments that face competition from products on the market or in development from Baxalta ($BXLT), Bayer and Novo Nordisk ($NVO). Partnering with Arsia, Biogen is hoping to develop a first-of-its-kind product that would stand out in a crowded space.

"We are looking forward to a close, dynamic, and iterative collaboration with Arsia," Biogen Senior Vice President Jorg Thommes said in a statement.

Arsia, founded in 2013, is headed by Polaris Partner Amy Schulman, who joined the firm last year after abruptly leaving the upper ranks of Pfizer ($PFE). Arsia's list of founders also includes MIT's Alex Klibanov and Polaris' Alan Crane, who serves as the company's chairman.

- read the statement