Xoma staffers form biotech startup to advance blood pressure med

Xoma has chosen a new home for a fixed-dose combination product for reducing blood pressure, transferring the asset to the startup Symplmed Pharmaceuticals in exchange for equity in the new company and up to double-digit royalties on potential U.S. sales.

Former Xoma ($XOMA) employees formed Symplmed after leading development of the combo hypertension treatment, which includes the generic ACE inhibitor called perindopril erbumine and amlodipine besylate. Xoma picked up rights to the combo in early 2012 and reported data from an 837-patient Phase III study in November, saying that the combo reduced blood pressure better than either of the two individual drugs alone.

Xoma had expected to find a partner to commercialize the combo treatment, which the French drugmaker Servier already markets in 91 countries outside the U.S. under the name Coveram. One theoretical partnership scenario involved a suitor with a commercial cardio drug business, which could pay Xoma a nice upfront fee and later rewards to acquire the asset. Yet this never materialized.

Under the leadership of ex-Xoma staffers Erik Emerson and Dr. Jeffrey Feldstein, Symplmed has taken over full financial responsibility for the program from Xoma, which has no further financial obligations for advancing the combo. Emerson, the startup's CEO, and Feldstein, who is its medical chief, aim to advance an application for FDA approval by the end of the year.

"Erik and Jeff have demonstrated strong dedication to the perindopril franchise and are leaving XOMA to launch Symplmed and move the franchise forward in a focused manner," Xoma CEO John Varian said in a release. "This structure provides Xoma the opportunity to share in their success, while retaining our focus on developing innovative therapeutic options for the specialist prescriber under the leadership of Tom Klein, our newly appointed chief commercial officer."

Symplmed has gained a sublicense to take over U.S. commercialization of perindopril erbumine, which is marketed as Aceon. The ACE inhibitor became generic in the U.S. in 2009.

- here's the release
- see the article from the San Francisco Business Times