GSK biotech accelerator bears fruits with Sitari acquisition

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Tom Merton)
(Image: Getty/Tom Merton)

Related tags Gsk Celiac disease Avalon Ventures Sitari Pharmaceuticals ActoBio Therapeutics

GSK’s partnership with Avalon Ventures to generate a number of biotechs has paid off, with the first company developed acquired by the former company.

The biotech in question is Sitari Pharmaceuticals, which was the first of an eventual eight biotechs were created through GSK’s deal with Avalon Ventures.

The project began in April 2013 and Sitari was set up later that year in November​ to progress drug candidates for celiac disease.

The preclinical studies conducted by Sitari were enough to persuade GSK to invest further and acquire the biotech. The financials of the agreement were not disclosed but GSK initially invested $465m (€423m) into the partnership with Avalon.

GSK will pick up Sitari’s two small molecule programs for celiac disease through the deal.

The drug candidates are inhibitors of transglutaminase 2 (TG2) – an enzyme that triggers an inflammatory response to gluten exposure in people living with the condition.

John Lepore, SVP of research at GSK, said, “Bringing the Sitari TG2 program into GSK is strongly aligned with our research focus on genetically-associated targets and immune-driven disease.

“The current standard of care for celiac disease is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, but a significant number of patients still experience gastrointestinal symptoms and disease progression. TG2 inhibition could represent a new hope for celiac disease patients.”

GSK is not the only company looking at entering the space, with ActoBio Therapeutics recently receiving approval​ from the US Food and Drug Administration for an investigational new drug (IND) application for its oral biologic drug candidate, AG017.

There are currently no approved treatments for celiac disease.

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