SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Avalon Ventures today announced that it entered into a definitive agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for the acquisition of Sitari Pharmaceuticals by GSK. Sitari has been developing a novel treatment for celiac disease and was the first company formed under the GSK-Avalon venture collaboration in 2013. Sitari was incubated at COI Pharmaceuticals, the Community of Innovation established by Avalon Ventures.
“Our collaboration with GSK has been overwhelmingly positive as we were able to rapidly launch a series of new companies based on promising scientific research, and we successfully advanced five programs into preclinical studies for a variety of unmet medical needs,” said Jay Lichter, Ph.D., CEO of Sitari, president and CEO of COI, and managing director of Avalon Ventures. “Sitari’s preclinical program has the potential to become a medicine to help millions of patients with celiac disease, and we are excited that GSK, a leader in developing innovative medicines, will be advancing the program.”
Genetic predisposition plays a key role in celiac disease, which is an autoimmune digestive disorder caused by intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. The enzymatic activity of transglutaminase 2 (TG2) is responsible for triggering the inflammatory cascade in response to gluten exposure in patients with celiac disease. Sitari’s TG2 inhibitors have the potential to suppress the autoimmune response that results in intestinal inflammation and cell pathogenesis in celiac patients.
“Over the last six years, GSK and Avalon have pioneered a unique biotech funding model designed to identify novel targets from top-tier academic labs and translate cutting-edge discoveries into promising clinical candidates,” said John Lepore, SVP, Research, GSK. “Bringing the Sitari TG2 program into GSK is strongly aligned with our research focus on genetically-associated targets and immune-driven disease. The current standard of care for celiac disease is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, but a significant number of patients still experience gastrointestinal symptoms and disease progression. TG2 inhibition could represent a new hope for celiac disease patients.”
The first-of-its-kind collaboration between Avalon Ventures and GSK combined Avalon’s successful approach of investing in early-stage life science innovation with GSK’s expertise and resources in drug discovery and development. The eight companies formed under the collaboration were incubated at COI Pharmaceuticals, Community of Innovation, where they received executive leadership and operational management. Under the terms of the agreement, GSK acquired Sitari and all of its intellectual property. Financial terms were not disclosed.
About COI Pharmaceuticals
COI Pharmaceuticals is a life science incubator entity that provides inventors with an environment where entrepreneurial and scientific risks are encouraged and rewarded. This Community of Innovation (COI) was established in 2013 to support a portfolio of companies that included those funded through a collaboration between Avalon Ventures and GSK. COI provides the intellectual capital to launch companies, a fully-equipped R&D infrastructure and industry mentors prepared to leverage their expertise to help entrepreneurial scientists succeed. COI is located in La Jolla, California. For more information, please visit: www.coipharma.com.
About Avalon Ventures
Avalon Ventures is a venture capital firm that has founded and/or funded more than 127 information technology and life sciences companies. The firm is passionate about backing talented entrepreneurs seeking to build market-leading companies. Throughout the firm’s 32-year tenure, Avalon’s long-standing and successful focus has been on seed and early-stage companies. All Avalon partners are seasoned entrepreneurs with experience in company formation, operations, and value creation in the life science and tech sectors. Avalon’s current fund, launched in 2015, continues the firm’s tradition of pursuing disruptive ideas in ever changing markets. For more information, please visit: www.avalon-ventures.com.