Momenta Gets a Steal on Promising Scientific Asset from Once-Hot Virdante

Xconomy Boston — 

When Cambridge, MA-based Momenta Pharmaceuticals said Monday that it had acquired the scientific assets of neighboring Virdante Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MNTA), few paid much attention, perhaps because of the deal’s small size. Momenta paid just $4.5 million up front, plus  additional milestone payments that could reach $51.5 million over time.

But it appears that Momenta is getting a bargain on a technology that was once highly valued by venture capitalists. Just two years ago, Virdante raised $30 million in a Series A funding round from the likes of Thomas, McNerney & Partners, Osage Partners, Biogen Idec New Ventures, Clarus Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, and Venrock Associates. The company’s plan was to develop a technology for increasing the anti-inflammatory properties of antibodies. The science originated at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Now, says Momenta’s CFO Richard Shea, it appears Virdante is “winding down its activities.” Virdante’s demise is not entirely surprising: The “about us” section of its website says the company’s team realized it wasn’t ready yet to enter clinical trials and “that the promise of the technology would be realized best in the hands of a new company.” Virdante’s CEO, John Ripple, declined to comment on the Momenta deal or Virdante’s future.

Shea says he and other executives at Momenta had been tracking Virdante’s progress and had long been interested in the technology, which is dubbed “Sialic Switch.” It’s based on the discovery that … Next Page »

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