The December sale of Carmel-based Marcadia Biotech to Roche garnered at least $287 million for the company’s owners and could lead the Marcadia team to launch a firm using one of Marcadia’s experimental diabetes medicines.
New details about the deal were released Wednesday by Switzerland-based Roche, a massive pharmaceutical and diagnostic firm, which operates its North American diagnostic business out of Indianapolis. Marcadia’s investors could get an extra $250 million—on top of the $287 million in upfront cash—from Roche as its experimental drugs move closer and closer to market.
The sale was a “home run” for Marcadia’s investors, said Fritz French, who until Monday was Marcadia’s CEO. Before leading the company, French had been vice president for global marketing for a division of Guidant Corp.
Since its founding in 2006, Marcadia had attracted $16 million in venture capital, most of it in a 2007 infusion from California-based 5AM Ventures and Seattle-based Frazier Healthcare. But more recently, Marcadia had funded its drug development through deals with New Jersey-based Merck & Co. Inc. and Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.
Those streams of revenue meant Marcadia didn’t have to sell, French said. But still, he and his management team started meeting with executives at other pharmaceutical firms about a year ago at the JP Morgan Health Care conference in San Francisco.
“Things just kind of developed with a number of companies,” French said. “Roche was the best bet from a lot factors, including financially.”
Marcadia was trying to develop numerous experimental diabetes medicines, based on research conducted at Indiana University in the labs of Richard DiMarchi, a former vice president of Lilly Research Laboratories in Indianapolis.
Under the sale to Roche, French said, IU will retain ownership of the drugs Marcadia was developing, but the licensing rights will shift to Roche.
French and most of the 11 employees at Marcadia now want to license from Roche a glucagon compound that Marcadia was developing with Lilly for patients with hypoglycemia. If his negotiations with Roche are successful, the former Marcadia team would form a new company to try to bring that compound to market.
Lilly already sells a glucagon drug, but its sales are less than $80 million a year. There are also other glucagons sold by Denmark-based Novo Nordisk A/S and other competitors, but they do not have huge sales levels.
French thinks that’s because they’re inconvenient. Lilly’s current glucagon product comes in a powder that must be mixed up with water and placed in a syringe before injection. But Marcadia was trying to develop a short-acting glucagon that could be stored as a solution in an injection “pen,” ready for immediate use during an episode of extremely low blood sugar.
The compound, known as MAR 531, is soon to start clinical trials.
The Marcadia management team, in addition to French and DiMarchi, included Jaswant Gidda, a former senior research adviser at Lilly; Kent Hawryluk, a former partner at Indianapolis-based Twilight Venture Partners; Ralph Riggin, a former research adviser at Lilly; Kristin Sherman, a former treasurer of Guidant; and Dr. Skip Vignati, a former medical director of endocrine research at Lilly.
“There’s a pretty rich pool of people that are here that want to stay in Indiana,” French said. “I hope this is just one of many more successes.”