Apellis Pharmaceuticals, based in Crestwood, Kentucky, has announced its entry into an agreement to acquire Potentia Pharmaceuticals (Lousiville, Kentucky). The acquisition of Potentia secures the necessary patent and intellectual property rights required by Apellis to develop the complement inhibitor drug compound APL-2. The company’s first clinical trial in dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD) is scheduled for mid-2015. The acquistion comes four years after Appellis was spun out of Potentia however, no financial terms have been disclosed. Earlier in December the company announced its completion of a $33M private placement of Series C Preferred Stock led by Morningside Ventures and AJU IB Investment Co., Ltd. The proceeds of the funding will be used to support three complement-based immunotherapy programs entering clinical proof-of-concept stage. Apellis’ ophthalmic program aims to reduce the growth of retinal lesions through the intravitreal injection of APL-2 in patients suffering from geographic atrophy.
Potentia was originally established in 2003 to commercialize POT-4, a synthetic peptide complement 3 (C3) inhibitor discovered at the University of Pennsylvania. The compound and its derivatives bind to and inhibit complement activation. Improvements in the half-life and efficacy of the molecule were developed prompting interest from Alcon in 2009. However, the partnership with Alcon, which had received exclusive worldwide rights, ended in 2013, following which the company struck an agreement with Apellis to develop complement inhibitors for ocular diseases. Following the recent venture investment, Apellis CEO Cedric Francois, M.D., Ph.D., stated, “We have learned much about complement since our first venture in this area a decade ago, and have great hopes that complement inhibition will be the first effective treatment for patients with dry AMD,”
According to Apellis, complement inhibition is “the only mechanism thus far to show reductions in the growth of dry AMD”, adding that “APL-2 has the same mechanism of action as Potentia’s original drug compound but has a significantly improved half-life in the eye. APL-2 is in late preclinical development in ophthalmology and is expected to enter Phase II clinical testing in patients with AMD by the middle of 2015”. Following announcement of the aquistion, Apellis’ CEO (Cedric Francois) commented, “We are delighted to be back in retinal drug development. Ophthalmology is a unique therapeutic area that is very dear to us. We have learned much about complement since our first venture in this area a decade ago, and have great hopes that complement inhibition will be the first effective treatment for patients with dry AMD.” In additional commentary following announcement of the acquisition, Dr. Phil Rosenfeld, MD, a physician at Bascom Palmer and an advisor to Apellis, stated: “There’s overwhelming scientific and clinical evidence to suggest that complement inhibition should slow the progression of dry AMD. I’m optimistic that based on its mechanism of action and its target within the complement cascade, APL-2 offers us the best chance to help our AMD patients”.