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Roche acquires Marcadia Biotech

December 30, 2010

Marcadia Biotech Inc., a Carmel-based biopharmaceutical company founded by former Eli Lilly and Co. executives in 2006, has been acquired by Swiss life sciences giant Roche.

The deal closed Wednesday, confirmed Roche spokesman Geoff Teeter.

“Details of the transaction are not being disclosed at this stage," Roche said in a written statement to IBJ. "Roche will disclose more information on this transaction on publication of our full-year financial report in February.”

Roche’s holdings include Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis, which has about 3,500 local employees.

Marcadia has about a dozen employees at its 11711 N. Meridian St. headquarters. While relatively small, the firm has raised millions in venture capital.

Marcadia’s chief scientific officer is Richard DiMarchi, who previously headed the biotechnology group at Lilly Research Labs, the research and development arm at Eli Lilly. He is also a professor and researcher at Indiana University, which has rights to some of Marcadia’s experimental drugs.

DiMarchi helped found the company with Gus Watanabe, the former head of Lilly's research laboratories and BioCrossroads chairman, who died in 2009.

Marcadia has been focusing on drugs to treat  metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

It previously partnered with drug giant Merck & Co. Inc. and with Indianapolis-based Lilly. Last June, Marcadia and Lilly struck a deal to develop short-acting glucagon drugs to treat severe hypoglycemia.

The Carmel company in 2007 raised $15 million in venture capital from Menlo Park, Calif.-based 5AM Investors, Seattle-based Frazier Healthcare Ventures and from locally based Twilight Venture Partners.

Former Twilight partner Kent Hawryluk serves as vice president of business development at Marcadia.

Marcadia’s profile has been rising, with a big external validation coming last year when results of its research on obesity-fighting compounds were published in the scientific journal Nature Chemical Biology, better known as Nature.

Marcadia’s researchers injected into mice a molecule they developed for treating obesity. The molecule decreased body weight by 25 percent and fat mass by 42 percent after one week.

“The results that we saw in these animal models were unprecedented,” Marcadia CEO Fritz French told IBJ at the time.

The promise underscored the need for hundreds of millions of dollars to proceed with human trials and eventually to bring the drug to market.

Neither French nor DiMarchi could be reached for comment Thursday.

Roche is a well-established leader in diabetes research and blood glucose monitoring devices.  Last February, the company announced progress in studies of its weekly taspoglutide drug in reducing blood glucose for those with Type 2 diabetes.

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