Supercharging Astex

SuperGen-Astex merger aims to create mid-tier cancer company

SuperGen Inc. and Astex Therapeutics Ltd. are betting that by combining the former's cash with the latter's pipeline and drug discovery platform, they can create a mid-tier cancer company.

SuperGen has plenty of cash from Dacogen decitabine royalties and needs a cancer pipeline to fill the gap if Dacogen cannot add new indications that will extend its Orphan exclusivity.

Astex has a cancer pipeline and a discovery engine but needs cash for clinical development.

The combined company will start out with about $120 million in the bank, partnerships with five big pharmas, royalties from one marketed drug, seven NCEs in clinical development, and a preclinical pipeline that should produce a new IND every 12-18 months for about eight years, according to SuperGen Chairman, President and CEO James Manuso.

Changing models

For SuperGen, the merger is a logical step in achieving its third incarnation, as a drug discovery company.

The company was founded in 1991 to develop cyclodextrin-coated chemotherapies to create timed-release "super generics." But after clinical data showed the products were not sufficiently differentiated, SuperGen moved to a specialty pharma model with two key product acquisitions in the late 1990s.

In 1996, the company acquired hairy cell leukemia drug Nipent pentostatin for undisclosed cash and equity

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