Pfizer Adds to Fibrosis Drug Pipeline With Excaliard Buyout

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Four years after opening shop with a $15.5 million Series A, Excaliard Pharmaceuticals is being snapped up by Pfizer (NYS: PFE) after attracting the pharma giant's attention with a string of positive Phase II results for its lead anti-fibrotic antisense drug.

Excaliard's lead program is EXC 001, which is designed to prevent scarring of the skin by interfering with the expression of connective tissue growth factor, or CTGF. There was no word on exactly how much of an upfront and milestone package its investors fetched for the company. But its development partner -- Isis Pharmaceuticals (NAS: ISIS) , which licensed out EXC 001 and other antisense programs to Excaliard in exchange for equity and a stake in its future success -- reported that it will get up to $14 million in an upfront and promised milestones for its share. Isis also retains the milestones and royalties proffered under its original licensing pact with Excaliard.

"The science behind Excaliard's lead compound aligns well with our R&D focus on new treatments for fibrosis and tissue remodeling," says Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Pfizer's senior vice president, biotherapeutics, worldwide research and development. "We view EXC 001 as being well positioned to potentially become a novel, transformative therapy in a space with limited available treatment options."

Excaliard was co-founded by CEO Gordon Foulkes, who was managing director of RiverVest Venture Partners when he seeded the company and helped forge the initial partnership with Isis, which likes to boast of its ability to generate added income by striking licensing pacts for programs outside its core focus.

"To date, we have generated more than $450 million from our satellite company partners. Our partnership with Excaliard and their development of EXC 001 is the most recent example of the success of this strategy," said Isis CFO B. Lynne Parshall. "The local treatment of fibrosis for scarring is an area outside our key focus and, as such, is not one we would have pursued internally."

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