BioWorld International Correspondent

Swedish firms Melacure Therapeutics AB, of Uppsala, and BioFactor Therapeutics AB, of Stockholm, combined in a stock-based deal to create a company with 31 employees and drug discovery programs in inflammation, appetite control, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal inflammation and diarrhea.

Terms were not disclosed, but the companies’ main shareholders are committing an additional SEK155 million (US$15.5 million) in equity funding to the merged entity, which is seeking a further SEK45 million from external sources. The combined organization, which will be called Melacure Therapeutics, will be located in Uppsala.

The merger has both a management and a scientific rationale, BioFactor President Carl-Johan Dalsgaard, who is chairman of the enlarged entity, told BioWorld International. “From a management point of view we are actually putting together a more complete management team, with discovery and development [experience],” he said.

BioFactor, which had a virtual structure, had been managed by a team with some 100 years of pharmaceutical industry experience, while Melacure’s strengths lie in drug discovery and preclinical development, he said.

Neither company has clinical trials under way, although BioFactor has academic clinical data from two programs, in irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea, Dalsgaard said. All of Melacure’s programs are at the preclinical stage. Its main focus is on the biology of melanocortin receptors, which are part of the G protein-coupled, 7TM class. Five have been identified to date. They are generally expressed within the central nervous system, although individual receptors also are active in peripheral locations. They bind melanocortins, a group of peptide hormones secreted by the pituitary gland that have a broad range of physiological effects. Melacure’s drug discovery efforts are focused on finding molecules that modulate their activity.

Melacure was established as a spin-off from Uppsala University in 1998 by Jarl Wikberg and Helgi Schi th and received funding from Swedish investors HealthCap, Investor Growth Capital, and The National Pension Insurance Fund. BioFactor was set up in December 2000, but is based on 15 years of animal and human gastrointestinal research. Its main investors include Lantm nnen Invest AB and HealthCap.