BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS - UroGene SA sold its research center in Villeurbanne, France, near Lyon, along with two cancer research programs to the Laboratoires Pierre Fabre.

The financial terms were not disclosed.

The move was the first step in the breakup of UroGene, its chairman, Christian Grenier, told BioWorld International. After failing to raise the €25 million it sought in a third funding round last year, despite mounting a road show in the U.S., the UK and Europe, the company's shareholders opted for an "industrial exit," Grenier explained, adding that he was "pleased" to have found this "intelligent" way out.

Paris-based Pierre Fabre has created a new subsidiary called Pierre Fabre Urologie, based in Villeurbanne, to take over the properties it has acquired from UroGene. As well as a combinatorial and medicinal chemistry research platform, they consist of all the intellectual property and technology pertaining to the research programs, which are in prostate and bladder cancer, as well as a chemical library of nearly 50,000 compounds. In addition, the 25-person staff of the Villeurbanne center, including the six biologists in charge of the research programs, have joined Pierre Fabre.

UroGene, which is based at the Genopole in Evry, is left with a single research program involving besipirdine, a compound it is developing for the treatment of overactive bladder (OAB), which entered Phase II trials in October. It has a team of just five people running that program, and Grenier said he was "in advanced negotiations" with two companies interested in acquiring the product and the researchers. He expects the negotiations to be completed within the next few weeks.

UroGene could thus disappear as a corporate entity, and Grenier himself said he would no longer be on the payroll once the sell-off was signed and sealed. The purchaser of the besipirdine program might not be French, but development of the compound likely is to remain based here, since Phase II trials are taking place at 26 centers around France.

The company acquired besipirdine from Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Bridgewater, N.J., a subsidiary of Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis Group, under an exclusive development and commercialization agreement signed in January 2004. UroGene had demonstrated that besipirdine, a C-fiber inhibitor with an original mechanism of action, had therapeutic potential for treating OAB, whereas Aventis had been developing it for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

UroGene completed a second funding round in March 2003 in which it raised €12 million from a group of venture capital funds led by Société Générale Asset Management, the venture capital arm of the Paris-based bank Société Générale, which also led the original financing in September 2000 of €2 million.

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