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Jan 27, 2014

Medigene Buys Startup Trianta for $13.5M

  • Medigene said today it acquired the immunotherapies startup Trianta, in an up-to-about €9.9 million ($13.5 million) deal the buyer said would strengthen its pipeline by adding three complementary T cell-focused immunotherapy platforms with clinical development programs, all aimed at treating cancer.

    “It strengthens our expertise in the fields of oncology and immunology and paves the way for sustainable growth,” Medigene CEO Frank Nathias said in a statement.

    Medigene agreed to pay €4 million (about $5.5 million) in shares up front, and up to another €5.875 million ($8.025 million) in further Medigene shares or in cash tied to milestones.

    The combined company will continue the personalized T cell immunotherapy work of Prof. Dolores J. Schendel, Trianta’s managing director and director of the Institute for Molecular Immunology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München. That work has focused on next-generation antigen-tailored dendritic cell (DC) vaccines, T cell receptor (TCR)-based adoptive cell therapy, and T cell-targeted antibodies (TABs).

    Trianta’s DC vaccines are the subject of two ongoing, externally funded investigator-initiated trials: a clinical Phase I/II trial in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Hospital Großhadern, Munich; and a clinical Phase II trial in prostate cancer at the Oslo University Hospital. The company said previous clinical compassionate use studies with its DC-vaccines have already provided encouraging data for safety and clinical benefits in several tumor types.

    The DCs are developed to carry multiple tumor antigens to treat various types of cancer. Trianta says it has developed new methods designed to be faster and more efficient for preparing autologous mature dendritic cells with relevant characteristics to activate both T cells and natural killer cells.

    That could address manufacturing challenges that have added to the cost of DC-based treatments—notably Dendreon’s prostate cancer vaccine Provenge, priced at $93,000. Dendreon has defended its pricing of Provenge by citing its novelty as a first-in-class, personalized autologous immunotherapy, its shorter duration of use than other cancer drugs, and its success in extending median overall survival beyond two years. But in November, Dendreon announced a second cost-cutting initiative in as many years despite an uptick in patient enrollment, following disappointing sales attributed to cost and competition from other prostate cancer drugs.

    “The union of our two companies will unlock diverse synergies to take our therapy platforms and innovative drug candidates through clinical development with the goal to improve lives of seriously ill patients,” Prof. Schendel said.

    Trianta was founded late last year as a spinout company of Helmholtz Zentrum to capitalize on the therapeutic and commercial potential of T cell-focused therapies developed by Prof. Schendel in collaboration with Prof. Thomas Blankenstein at the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine.

    As part of the deal, Prof. Schendel will join Medigene’s executive management board as CSO, accompanied by her team of 15 immunotherapy specialists from the Helmholtz Zentrum.

    Founded in 1994, publicly traded Medigene develops treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases and is Germany’s first biotech company to generate revenues from a marketed product—the genital wart drug Veregen, which is sold in the United States and eight other countries and is set to launch early this year in Sweden.



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