#UK US-owned biotech plans to scale in Cambridge

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Proximagen, which specialises in novel small molecule therapeutics – notably for CNS, pain and inflammation – plans to scale further from its Cambridge UK base as part of an ongoing global expansion strategy.

Business Weekly understands that the business is looking for more space to grow at its headquarters at the Babraham Research Campus which is a hotbed for rapidly expanding biotech innovators.

Also based in Minnesota, Proximagen’s continuing push for international growth has been strengthened by the decision of parent company Upsher-Smith Laboratories Inc. to sell its generics business and branded epilepsy therapy, Qudexy® XR (topiramate) extended-release capsules, to Sawai Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd.

The Japanese publicly traded and family run generics pharmaceutical company is said to have paid $1.05 billion for that element of the Evanstad Family-owned business.

Upsher-Smith Laboratories, which paid $550 million for Proximagen in 2012, says that following the Sawai deal, Proximagen ceases to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Upsher-Smith and will instead be a wholly-owned subsidiary of a newly created Evenstad holding company, ACOVA. The Evenstad Family will continue to fund Proximagen through ACOVA.

The Evenstad family said it remained committed to investing in innovative small molecule drug discovery and development so Proximagen would continue to benefit from ownership by investors with a long-term view.

CEO Mark Evenstad has become CEO of ACOVA. He said: “I am excited to continue to pursue my passion for helping patients and their families through the work that we undertake at Proximagen in developing new medicines.”

Bill Pullman, currently CSO and president of Upsher-Smith’s Biotech Research Institute Division, will lead Proximagen.

The owners said Proximagen’s strategy “remains to leverage the drug discovery expertise at its integrated site in Cambridge UK to develop innovative small molecule therapeutics in CNS, inflammation and pain. Proximagen will also maintain capabilities in the US with a focused team providing drug development, project management and translational medicine expertise.”

Pullman added: “This is an exciting new chapter for Proximagen. The company will continue to focus on achieving Mark’s vision through innovative small molecule drug discovery in Cambridge and our focused US-based development capabilities.”

Proximagen will retain its existing pipeline of small molecule NCE programmes, including two programmes in clinical development. In addition, Upsher-Smith’s intranasal midazolam programme for acute repetitive seizures (currently known as USL261) will become part of Proximagen’s pipeline.

Proximagen will maintain its strategy of collaborations for later stage clinical development, exemplified by its Phase II clinical collaboration with Roche on a VAP-1 inhibitor.

It will also continue to actively seek early stage collaborations, in addition to its existing collaboration with Saniona on an ion channel target, in order to access innovative ideas and programmes to which it can apply drug discovery and development expertise to progress into testing in the clinic.

Proximagen’s Babraham hub is an integrated drug discovery facility with in-house capabilities in medicinal chemistry, biology and drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics.

The company recently revealed that its pivotal Phase III trial of intranasal midazolam met its primary efficacy endpoint as a treatment for patients with seizure clusters. 

It plans to initiate talks with the FDA for a New Drug Application in the second half of this year based on the trial’s findings.

The company’s USL261 formulation was developed for intranasal delivery in patients who need to control intermittent bouts of heightened seizure activity.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Babraham Research Campus

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