BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Sterix Ltd., a privately held UK company specializing in steroid hormones, was acquired by the French pharmaceutical company Ipsen Group.

The price was not disclosed, but Iain Wilcock, investment director at Questor Capital Management, which invested £1 million (US$1.84 million) in Sterix, said, "This deal gives a very satisfactory return."

Sterix, based in Oxford, raised £8 million in its first-round funding in 2001, when the other investors were Avlar BioVentures, 3i Group plc and Johnson & Johnson Development Group.

The company was formed in July 2001 around the work of a steroid biology group at St. Mary's Hospital, London, part of Imperial College, and a medicinal chemistry group at the University of Bath. It has one product, STX 64, a sulphatase inhibitor in Phase I for the treatment of hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer, and STX 140, an anti-angiogenesis compound for treating solid tumors in preclinical development.

Sterix also has licensed another clinical-stage product, Oestramate, to an unnamed pharmaceutical company. The research portfolio includes a number of inhibitors of sulphatases and aromatases that are involved in the synthesis of hormones, and there are 60 granted patents.

Didier Veron, Paris-based Ipsen's director of public affairs, told BioWorld International, "This is an important acquisition for us, reinforcing our presence in oncology, one of our key therapeutic domains."

Ipsen plans to continue the clinical programs and further develop the research portfolio of Sterix in collaboration with its academic partners at the University of Bath and Imperial College. Sterix will continue to be based in Oxford. "This acquisition will add stability to the Sterix team and allow it to continue developing its science over the long term," Wilcock said.