Amgen buys drug-development startup that has ties to CWRU's med school – Crain's Cleveland Business


A drug-development startup in Seattle that was founded by two researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, along with a third partner, has been sold to publicly traded biopharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. (Nasdaq: AMGN) of Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Amgen announced in a news release that it will acquire all shares outstanding of the startup, Rodeo Therapeutics Corp., for $55 million upfront, plus “future contingent milestone payments potentially worth up to an additional $666 million in cash.” The transaction has been approved by Amgen shareholders and Rodeo’s board of directors.

Rodeo “is focused on developing first-in-class, orally available modulators of prostaglandin biology that play an important role in tissue regeneration and repair,” Amgen said in the release. The company said Rodeo’s lead 15-prostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH) modulators “have generated compelling data in extensive preclinical studies and have clinical potential in multiple indications,” including colitis.

The enzyme 15-PGDH “plays a key role in many disease-relevant processes such as stem cell self-renewal and epithelial barrier repair,” said Raymond Deshaies, senior vice president of global research at Amgen, in the release. “Given the encouraging preclinical data to date, we are excited about the opportunity to develop a novel therapy with potential in a range of important inflammatory disease indications.”

In its own release on the deal, CWRU said Rodeo was created based on discoveries published in the peer-reviewed journal Science by three scientific founders: Sanford Markowitz, the Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics and Distinguished University Professor at CWRU; Stanton Gerson, interim dean of the CWRU medical school and director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Joseph Ready, a biochemistry professor at the University of Texas Southwestern.

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“Amgen’s purchase of Rodeo marks a giant step forward toward bringing this Case Western Reserve-developed technology to patients,” Markowitz said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be partnering with a world-class pharmaceutical company like Amgen, and to be able to benefit from its team of outstanding scientists and drug developers — as well as the company’s financial resources — to speed the development of this promising new class of drugs.”

Markowitz said in the release that initial studies will likely be done in patients with colitis and then potentially expand to treating other diseases.

For CWRU, the deal is another successful spinout of university-based research from labs to the commercial space.

The university said in its release that the technology transfer process “has supported the emergence of such companies as Convelo Therapeutics Inc., a biotechnology firm discovering medicines for neurological disorders that announced a partnership with Genentech in 2019, and CardioInsight Technologies Inc., a medical-device company sold to Medtronic for about $93 million in 2015.”

In the deal, CWRU said, Amgen “acquires the license for the original Markowitz, Gerson, Ready and Rodeo-developed technologies, plus the rights to related technology” developed by additional CWRU medical school faculty members Andrew Pieper, Amar Desai and Derek Taylor.

The final payout is based on reaching certain undisclosed milestones tied to the drug’s clinical and commercial success, according to the CWRU release.



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