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Blackstone, Novartis Start Up Anthos With $250M and a Heart Drug

Xconomy Boston — 

Blackstone Life Sciences, the biopharma investing arm of private equity firm Blackstone Group, has made its first strike. It has joined with Novartis (NYSE: NVS) to start a new biotech, Anthos Therapeutics, backed with $250 million in cash and rights to an experimental drug originally discovered by the Swiss firm.

The Cambridge, MA, startup, Anthos Therapeutics, will use the investment to advance MAA868, a Novartis antibody drug that is meant to treat blood clots by targeting two clotting proteins, Factor XI and Factor XIa. Anthos believes the drug has the ability to “prevent a variety of cardiovascular disorders,” like atrial fibrillation—one of the leading risk factors for ischemic strokes—without the dangerous bleeds associated with current treatments, the company said in a statement.

Blackstone launched Blackstone Life Sciences in October when it bought Clarus Ventures, a life sciences investment firm with $2.6 billion under management. Upon starting up, Blackstone Life Science said it aimed to, among other things, snap up drugs from pharma’s shelves that were getting left behind and fund their development. That is what’s happening with its first investment, Anthos: Blackstone put all the cash into the startup, which will control the clinical development plan for MAA868. Novartis, meanwhile, will have a minority stake.

According to the clinicaltrials.gov database, Novartis had been planning two Phase 2 trials testing MAA868 against other agents—like the Bristol-Myers Squibb heart drug apixaban (Eliquis)—in atrial fibrillation and other thrombotic disorders, but both studies were withdrawn. A report this morning from the Wall Street Journal indicated that Anthos has enough cash to get MAA868 to market.

“The need for new medicines to treat cardiovascular diseases is clear, and this agreement is part of our strategy to work with innovators outside our walls to advance medicines that have the potential to have a positive impact for patients,” said Jay Bradner, the head of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, in a statement.

John Glasspool, who once ran Novartis’s cardiovascular franchise, has been named the CEO of Anthos. Nick Galakatos, head of Blackstone Life Sciences, is the startup’s chairman.

Here’s more on Anthos from the WSJ.