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U of Calgary start-up partners with Genentech in $750M deal to commercialize treatments for autoimmune disease


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 22nd, 2019

A University of Calgary (U of C) start-up is partnering with a San Francisco-based biotech company Genentech to develop treatments for a variety of diseases.

Under the agreement, the start-up Parvus Therapeutics and Genentech will harness the research of U of C researcher and Parvus founder Pere Santamaria to develop and commercialize treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune liver disease (ALD), and celiac disease.

Santamaria’s technology harnesses the body’s natural ability to shut off the immune attack characteristic of a range of autoimmune diseases, without the risk of compromising the rest of the immune system the way that current treatments do.

Parvus will conduct preclinical development and Phase I clinical trials of the treatment, while Genentech will be responsible for Phase II and beyond, including global commercialization of products. Parvus will receive an undisclosed upfront payment, milestone-based payments, and royalties. The entire deal is valued at more than C$1 billion, or about US$750M.

The start-up received early capital from a number of angel investors as well as advice and support from Innovate Calgary, the university’s commercialization arm.

“There were some people who believed in the kind of work we were doing,” Santamaria said. “They deserve the credit for allowing us to survive during a period of time when it was very difficult to convince anyone else that this was worth a shot.”

Start-up funding in Calgary can be particularly scarce in the life sciences, said Innovate Calgary CEO John Wilson. “But we’ve now shown you can do it. Younger companies can look at Parvus and say, ‘Look, you can make it here,’” Wilson said. The Genentech deal, he added, “is enormously important for the city of Calgary and for the future of the city of Calgary.”

“There is a high likelihood now that we will be able to test whether or not these potential drugs will work on autoimmune patients,” says Santamaria. “If they do, it will be an awesome thing. Something beyond my wildest dreams.”

Source: Calgary Herald

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