Amgen saddles up with Rodeo for a $55M trek into regenerative medicine

Amgen is adding an arrow to its anti-inflammatory quiver with its buyout of Seattle’s Rodeo Therapeutics. The deal will see just $55 million change hands upfront, but another $666 million could come into play if Rodeo’s assets live up to their hype.

Amgen will get its hand on Rodeo’s stable of assets targeting prostaglandin, a group of signaling molecules that play a role in tissue repair and regeneration. Of particular interest is a drug that blocks 15-prostaglandin dehydrogenase, or 15-PDGH, an enzyme that breaks down prostaglandin.

Rodeo has shown in preclinical studies that targeting 15-PDGH to dial up tissue levels of prostaglandin can protect against colitis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis—a rare and fatal lung scarring disease—as well as promote liver regeneration, the company says.

“The enzyme 15-PGDH plays a key role in many disease-relevant processes such as stem cell self-renewal and epithelial barrier repair. Given the encouraging preclinical data to date, we are excited about the opportunity to develop a novel therapy with potential in a range of important inflammatory disease indications,” Raymond Deshaies, Ph.D., senior vice president of global research at Amgen, said in a statement Tuesday.

Rodeo raised a $5.9 million series A round in 2017 to bankroll preclinical work on compounds designed to encourage regeneration and repair of multiple tissue types. That funding came from the likes of AbbVie Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, Arch Venture Partners, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

The Rodeo deal follows a much pricier one for Amgen in which it acquired Five Prime Therapeutics in its biggest buyout since Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2013.

Two weeks after it announced the Five Prime acquisition, a securities filing revealed just how hard Amgen fought for its quarry. Five Prime began discussing possible collaborations with potential suitors in 2019, but a big readout in November the following year changed its partnership ambitions to buyout aspirations.

Its cancer drug, bemarituzumab—along with chemotherapy—staved off disease progression in patients with tumors expressing FGFR2b for 9.5 months, about two months longer than the figure for patients who received chemo alone. Amgen ended up duking it out with two other (unnamed) companies in a bidding war that it eventually won to the tune of $1.9 billion.

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