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Shire Acquires Meritage Pharma in Deal Potentially Worth $245M

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coat the esophagus so the drug can act locally on a specific type of immune cell called an eosinophil. Budesonide is the active pharmaceutical ingredient in other FDA-approved products, including products for the treatment of asthma, allergic rhinitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

[Updates with comments from Meritage CEO] In a phone interview, Meritage CEO Elaine Phillips said the idea for using an oral formulation of budesonide to treat patients came out of UC San Diego, and found a receptive supporter in Cam Garner, the serial biotech entrepreneur whose resume includes Dura Pharmaceuticals, Somaxon Therapeutics, and Elevation Pharmaceuticals.

Garner helped found Meritage in 2008, and served as chairman of the company that carried the idea to the threshold of Phase 3 clinical trials.

Elaine Phillips

Elaine Phillips

According to Crunchbase, Meritage raised about $36.5 million from venture investors that included Domain Associates, Latterell Venture Partners, and The Vertical Group. The company operated virtually, with a whopping six employees, Phillips said.

ViroPharma had contributed $20 million to the Phase 2 study, Phillips said, and “Shire basically just picked up where ViroPharma left off.”

Some Meritage staffers will continue work on OBS, but Phillips said she and Malcolm Hill, the chief scientific officer, “won’t be going forward” once the transition to Shire has been completed.

In the end, Phillips said, Meritage is a classic example of what San Diego’s life sciences community does best—advancing an idea through pre-clinical and early stage clinical development and to the point where it’s ready for pivotal trials, “and now we’ve put it in the capable hands of Shire.”

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