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Amgen to buy kidney drug firm Ilypsa for USD 420m

Amgen has agreed to pay USD 420m in cash to acquire privately held drug-development company, Ilypsa

US biotechnology firm, Amgen has agreed to pay USD 420m in cash to acquire the privately held drug-development company, Ilypsa. The acquisition will gain the biotechnology giant a late-stage experimental treatment for hyperphosphataemia, the dangerously elevated serum phosphate levels that frequently occur in chronic kidney disease patients on haemodialysis.

Ilypsa will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amgen after the closing of the deal, which is expected to take place in Q3 2007, pending regulatory approvals and other closing conditions. The deal has already been approved by both firms' shareholders and boards of directors.

The phase II hyperphosphataemia treatment, called ILY101, is Santa Clara, California-based Ilypsa's lead product. The orally administered, non-absorbed drug prevents the absorption of ingested phosphate. Ilypsa says that the product may be more selective and have a greater binding capacity than currently marketed products. These factors could allow for lower daily doses, thereby improving patients' tolerance. Ilypsa announced in February 2007 that it had completed enrolment of 120 patients at 20 clinical centres for its phase II multi-centre, randomised, dose-ranging study of ILY101.

The company noted at the time that it had taken the drug from the IND stage to the completion of phase II enrolment in only 12 months, a speed that it said reflected the shortened development timelines that its technology can offer. The firm's drug-development efforts make use of a proprietary high-throughput discovery and development platform created at Symyx Technologies, a company focused on developing high-speed combinatorial methods. Ilypsa, which was originally known as Symyx Therapeutics, was established by Symyx in 2003 with USD 8m in funding from venture capital firms.

In addition to ILY101, Ilypsa has four preclinical-stage, GI-based drugs for phosphate, potassium and sodium management in chronic kidney disease. Ilypsa's focus on renal disorders complements Amgen's existing drug portfolio, which includes Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) and Epogen (epoetin alfa) artificial versions of human erythropoietin used to treat anaemia in dialysis patients. Becoming part of a major biotech firm will give Ilypsa's resources a boost.

Prior to the announcement of the deal, the company had raised a total of USD 46m in Series A and B rounds of financing from investors including the J&J Development Corporation and Delphi Ventures, an equity financing firm specialising in healthcare. Ilypsa is headed up by Jay P Shepard, who joined the firm as president and CEO in late 2005. Shepard was previously vice-president of commercial operations at Telik, where he headed up market preparation for the launch of the firm's lead oncology compounds.

7th June 2007

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