Bristol-Myers, BioMotiv Pact Leads to a New Fibrosis-Focused Startup

Xconomy New York — 

Bristol-Myers Squibb is still digesting the commercialized and clinical-stage assets that came with its $74 billion acquisition of Celgene, but the pharmaceutical giant has also been making moves to feed its pipeline with compounds at earlier points of development. An alliance that Bristol struck up with pharmaceutical accelerator BioMotiv last year now has its first startup.

The partners on Tuesday announced the launch of Anteros Pharmaceuticals, a company that is developing a new treatment for fibrosis. Bristol (NYSE: BMY) and BioMotiv aren’t disclosing how much money is going into the new company, nor are they saying much about how its drug could work. But if an Anteros compound shows enough progress in preclinical development, Bristol can exercise an option to acquire the company and continue its research.

BioMotiv aims to find drug candidates at universities, form companies around them, and develop their drug candidates to a point where they attract investment from venture capital firms or are acquired or licensed by a pharmaceutical company. It’s similar to the “build to buy” approach that some venture capital firms have used to create new companies. The accelerator formed in 2012 backed by $148 million in financing. BioMotiv CEO Satish Jindal tells Xconomy that the accelerator’s investors include Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB), Takeda Pharmaceutical (NYSE: TAK), and Arix Bioscience (LON: ARIX).

Anteros is based on research that Bristol licensed from Yale University. The startup is developing a small molecule drug for fibrosis, the formation of scar tissue in organs, such as the lungs and kidneys. Jindal says Anteros is addressing a mechanism that has been validated as a target for fibrotic disease but has proven difficult to hit with a drug. This mechanism also has potential applications treating other inflammatory diseases.

The partnership calls for Bristol to contribute the intellectual property and data surrounding the fibrosis research, as well as reagents to test small molecules against the undisclosed fibrosis mechanism. BioMotiv is responsible for research and development. In addition to the resources at BioMotiv, Jindal says Anteros will also do some of its work in labs at a Bristol research and development site in India. If Bristol acquires Anteros or any other company formed under the pact, BioMotiv could earn milestone payments tied to a drug’s progress, plus royalties from sales if it reaches the market.

BioMotiv is free to form companies outside of its partnership with Bristol. So far, Jindal says the accelerator has created 10 startups, five of which have received funding and are advancing development of drug candidates. Besides fibrosis, the therapeutic areas that BioMotiv focuses on include oncology, autoimmune disease, heart failure, and neuroinflammation.

The accelerator finds technologies through its connections with universities, as well as through its partnership with the Harrington Project for Drug Discovery & Development, a $340 million US and UK initiative to support development of new medicines. That effort is supported by the Harrington Discovery Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides grant funding for physicians and scientists.

Split across sites in Cleveland and Philadelphia, BioMotiv provides financial support for a company, as well as a team of scientists ready to get to work with the new companies. Some of that research is done by contract research organizations under contract with BioMotiv. Jindal says that unlike some VC-supported accelerators that need to hire staff and find lab space, Jindal says BioMotiv already has those resources in place.

“We don’t have to wait,” he says. “We can start the work right way once we close the deal with a university or an entity.”

Bristol, which is also a BioMotiv investor, is the only pharmaceutical company that has a partnership to form startups with the accelerator. But Jindal says that he is in discussions with other pharmaceutical companies about forming similar alliances.

Public domain photo by Flickr user Qasim Zafar