BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Trigen Holdings plc and ProCorde GmbH are to merge in an Anglo-German alliance that the parties claim will create Europe's first broad-based cardiovascular biotechnology company.

The value of the all-paper merger was not disclosed, but the larger proportion of the value comes from Trigen, and, as senior partner, Trigen CEO Sanjay Kakkar becomes CEO of the merged entity, Trigen Holdings AG. The 50-employee company will maintain its sites in London and Martinsried, Germany. Gotz Munch, CEO of ProCorde, will run the German operation.

At the same time, Trigen appointed Goran Ando, previously CEO of Celltech Group plc, and before that head of R&D at Pharmacia (now part of Pfizer Inc.), as nonexecutive chairman.

Kakkar told BioWorld International that Trigen made a strategic decision in the middle of 2004 to find a partner to broaden its pipeline and technology base.

"This would enable us to look for larger funding opportunities and build a broader engine for the future," he said.

After looking for suitable candidates in the U.S. and Asia, Trigen selected ProCorde as the best fit on the basis of its expertise in human platelet biology, two platform technologies for cardiovascular drug discovery and an array of preclinical compounds, including PR 15, an anti-platelet protein, that is due to enter clinical trials later this year.

Trigen brings to the table TGN 255, an intravenously administered small-molecule thrombin inhibitor, and TGN 167, an oral thrombin inhibitor for which Trigen claims blockbuster potential, along with medicinal chemistry skills and a number of preclinical compounds.

"ProCorde needed more mass downstream: Its next stage [of development] was to get into the clinic. Also, it has no small-molecule capabilities with which to exploit its targets, and so the fit was ideal," Kakkar said.

Trigen approached the management of ProCorde and the main shareholder 3i Group Investments LP in late summer 2004, and the two agreed to merge. "There followed an elaborate process through the autumn to agree to terms," Kakkar said. Before the merger, the companies did not have any shareholders in common and Kakkar added that there was no pressure from 3i or from Trigen's lead investor, HealthCap, of Stockholm, Sweden, to bring the parties to the table or force through the alliance.

The new company has funding to last until the end of 2005 while completing Phase II trials of TGN 255 and advancing PR 15 into the clinic.

"We are now looking at opportunities for financing," Kakkar said.

Trigen raised £7.1 million (US$13.4 million) in a first round in January 2002, but its roots go back to 1992 when it was set up to commercialize technology from the Thrombosis Research Institute in London. For the first 10 years it operated as a virtual company funded by Canaster Group Ltd., a private investment company.

TGN 167 has completed Phase I and is being formulated in a slow-release tablet form. Trigen said it could be a competitor to warfarin, currently the only oral anti-coagulant available for long-term treatment of thrombosis. Warfarin has disadvantages, including a tendency to interact with other drugs and a high degree of variation of efficacy in the same patient over time.