BioWorld International Correspondent

Biovitrum AB agreed to acquire Cambridge Biotechnology Ltd. (CBT) and signaled its intention to engage in further merger and acquisition activity.

Terms of the transaction, the first acquisition for Biovitrum, were not disclosed. CBT, which was founded in Cambridge, UK, in 2001 by a team of scientists who previously were members of a Pfizer Global Research & Development drug discovery team, had raised £10.2 million (US$19.4 million) during its independent existence. It currently has 29 employees.

"We will keep the group as it is more or less," said Mats Pettersson, CEO of Stockholm, Sweden-based Biovitrum. CBT's CEO, Tony Sedgwick, will part company with the organization, and Peter Richardson, CBT's chief scientific officer, will take on the role of managing director of CBT in the UK.

CBT has one compound in the clinic, CBT 1008, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment for pain, which has completed a Phase I clinical trial. It is also developing a series of preclinical agonists of the hormone leptin as a treatment for obesity. "We are familiar with the area, and we believe that CBT has something very interesting going on," Pettersson said. A candidate drug from that program is expected to enter the clinic next year.

The running costs associated with the Cambridge operation are not likely to make any significant impact on Biovitrum's cash position of $200 million. Growth from its recombinant Factor VIII manufacturing business will offset the bulk of the additional cash requirement, Pettersson said.

Biovitrum is actively seeking other acquisition candidates, particularly those with Phase I or Phase II compounds, and it could participate in further transactions this year. "I believe that Biovitrum can play a role in the industry through making some add-on acquisitions like this," Pettersson said. "We're not relying solely on our discovery machine or efforts."

The CBT deal broadens its pipeline and also takes it into the area of inflammation for the first time. Although it does not necessarily plan to make that a core element in its drug development strategy, the move "will definitely open up that possibility," Pettersson said.