Pfizer Acquires Excaliard, an Isis Spinout With Drug to Fight Excessive Scarring

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Pfizer (NYS: PFE) is making a new bet on a new drug to fight excessive scarring, by acquiring a former skunkworks project fromIsis Pharmaceuticals (NAS: ISIS) .

New York-based Pfizer said today it has reached an agreement to acquire Carlsbad, CA-based Excaliard Pharmaceuticals, a spinoff from Isis. Terms of the deal aren't being disclosed, but Isis said today it is getting $4.4 million upfront, and as much as $14 million over time for its equity stake, plus further milestones and royalty payments. Excaliard was founded in 2006 with technology from Isis, and the company received a $15.5 million Series A investment the following year from Alta Partners, ProQuest Investments, and RiverVest Ventures.

Excaliard was started to use Isis' gene-silencing technology, known as antisense, to curb the activity of certain genes implicated in excessive skin scarring. As I described in a feature story in these pages two years ago, Excaliard's hope is to make scars less visible and bumpy, like those from the 1 million Caesarian section births performed each year, knee surgeries, and reconstructive plastic surgeries. It could also be used for some rarer dermatology conditions like hypertrophic scars that are red, raised, itchy and swollen, or keloids, that are large and raised above the skin like a benign tumor.

If Excaliard can demonstrate this approach works in clinical trials, it could have a wide-open market opportunity, since there are no other FDA approved drugs that it can consider direct competitors. The company said in a statement that it has completed three mid-stage clinical trials, although it didn't describe the results.

"The acquisition of Excaliard is part of our corporate research and development strategy to actively complement our robust internal project pipeline with innovative and differentiated drugs from biotech partners," said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's president of worldwide R&D, in a statement.

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