Novartis grabs a $665M option to buy sickle cell disease biotech

Little Selexys Pharmaceuticals just put Oklahoma on the global biopharma map. The biotech not only won a $23 million investment from A-list biotech player MPM Capital, pharma giant Novartis ($NVS) stepped up to ink an option to scoop up the company and its mid-stage therapy for sickle cell anemia for a package of upfront fees, milestones and more worth up to $665 million.

Novartis has its eyes on SelG1, an antibody headed into a mid-stage study for vaso-occlusion, a painful crimping of circulation in blood vessels which threatens sickle cell anemia patients. In a statement, the biotech said that its preclinical efforts demonstrated the treatment's success in preventing cell-cell interactions required to trigger vaso-occlusion. So far the company has been relying on NIH for much of its funding. And Selexys has a second program, an anti-PSGL-1 antibody, headed into Phase I.

"SelG1 is a first-in-class therapeutic approach for the treatment of vasoocclusive crisis in sickle cell disease," said Selexys COO Russell Rother. "Results from the recently completed Phase I safety study indicate that SelG1 is safe and well tolerated in healthy human subjects, and we are now eager to investigate its safety and efficacy in the sickle cell disease patient population."

"This is the largest, by far, pharmaceutical deal ever for an Oklahoma-based company," Dr. Scott Rollins, president and CEO of Selexys, told The Oklahoman. "This is a monumental deal for my company, for Oklahoma, for biotechnology in the state--any way you want to look at it." 

- get the press release
- here's the story from The Oklahoman