Novartis to acquire Spinifex, continue pain drug development

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Novartis is to acquire Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on the development of new drugs for treating chronic pain.

Spinifex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and its Australian subsidiary Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, has announced agreement to the sale of Spinifex to Novartis International AG for an upfront cash consideration of US$200 million plus significant further development and regulatory milestone payments.

The technology around which Spinifex is founded was developed by Prof Maree Smith and Dr Bruce Wyse at the University of Queensland, where they identified AT2 receptor antagonists as inhibitors of neuropathic pain in preclinical models.

Recognising the commercial potential of an improved treatment for chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain, in 2005 the technology was spun out of The University of Queensland into Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd via a Series A investment round from UniSeed, UniQuest and GBS Venture Partners.

In 2008, as the company prepared for human clinical trials under an IND with the US Food & Drug Administration, the existing Australian venture syndicate reinvested and was further strengthened by the addition of Brandon Capital Partners a Series B financing.

In 2014 following positive results from the company’s Phase 2 trial in post herpetic neuralgia which have been published in The Lancet, the company went on to raise a Series C round to fund the company’s further clinical development and relocate substantial operations to the US. The existing investor syndicate continued to participate and was enhanced by the addition of US VCs Novo Ventures and Canaan Partners.

As a result of the acquisition announced Novartis will continue the development of the company’s programs and is planning to undertake Phase 2b clinical trials in patients with PHN and Painful Diabetic Neuropathy, and intends to build on these two key indications to pursue a broad peripheral neuropathic pain.

“I would like to thank all Spinifex investors throughout this journey,” says Tom McCarthy, Spinifex’s President and CEO.

“I thank Prof Maree Smith and her colleagues for their foundational IP, UniQuest for shepherding this into Spinifex and fostering UniSeed and GBS’s Series A syndicate support.

“The Australian support base was further strengthened by Brandon Capital at the Series B, and then Novo and Canaan in the Series C financing. As with all successful outcomes, it needed the support of many.

“I would also like to remember Dr Andrew Baker who led GBS’s initial investment and was past Spinifex Chairman. From the time I joined the company in November 2006 through to Andrew’s passing, he was a great support to Spinifex and me personally and I know at this time he would be very proud of us all.”

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