U3 Pharma AG Takeover by DAIICHI SANKYO

May 26, 2008

The biotechnology site Munich-Martinsried has been significantly upgraded in the oncology field with the sale of the Max Planck Institute spin-off U3 Pharma to Japan’s second largest pharmaceutical company.

The biotechnology company U3 Pharma AG in Martinsried has been sold for 150 million Euros to the Japanese pharmaceutical corporation DAIICHI SANKYO. U3 was founded in 2001 by Professor Axel Ullrich, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. The company specializes in the development of monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer. Its new anti-HER3 antibody (U3-1287/AMG 888) has just passed the preclinical trial stage to qualify for clinical studies. U3 Pharma currently employs a staff of 27. They will remain with the company at the Martinsried location.

All antibodies that U3 Pharma is currently developing are classified as target-oriented therapeutics. They constitute specific inhibitors of cellular growth receptors and will be developed as agents against particular types of breast, lung, skin and intestinal cancer types. The agents are based on fundamental research at the Molecular Biology research division at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry, whose Director Professor Axel Ullrich is a pioneer in translational medicine. Two “blockbusters” in tumour treatment, Herceptin® (against breast cancer) and Sutent® (against gastrointestinal stromatic tumours and metastasizing renal cell carcinoma) are based on the research of Axel Ullrich and his co-workers.

With the acquisition of U3 Pharma, DAIICHI SANKYO clearly expands its portfolio of potential anti-tumour agents. This globally active company is also establishing its fourth research and development location outside Japan with the purchase. “The agreement with DAIICHI SANKYO marks an important milestone in the development of U3 Pharma. We look forward to working with our colleagues at DAIICHI SANKYO on the continued development of agents in U3’s pipeline – and their implementation as new cancer therapies. At this time, the takeover secures ongoing development of many promising and urgently needed cancer therapies,” says Axel Ullrich about the sale.

In the meantime, Axel Ullrich and his co-workers have applied for about 60 patents, making him one of the most successful cancer researchers in the world in more than just scientific terms. As an entrepreneur, he has founded four biotechnology companies, three of which are located on the Martinsried campus. Since 1988, he has been running the Molecular Biology division at the Martinsried Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry. As an initiator and coordinator, he supported in 2005 the establishment of the Singapore Oncogenome Project at the Centre for Molecular Medicine (now renamed the Institute of Medical Biology) at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research in Singapore. His research has received numerous awards. The Karl Heinz Beckurts Foundation, the AACR Pezcoller Foundation for Cancer Research and Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Support) have recently honoured him.

The current takeover of his third company confirms this top researcher’s successful strategy in pursuing a quick transfer of results from fundamental research to the development of cancer therapies. His first company, SUGEN Inc., undertook the pioneering work of active ingredient development for the successful cancer medication Sutent® and was then bought by a larger development. “Small innovative biotechnology companies have the indispensable creativity and flexibility needed in the first phase of active ingredient development. Large pharmaceutical companies – such as DAIICHI SANKYO – have the capital and employees needed to perform highly expensive clinical studies and to continue the development of an active ingredient into a medication that can be used in therapy. U3 Pharma could surely not have managed this on its own steam,” says Ullrich. He sees his involvement as founder and consultant of biotech companies to be a matter of course.

Aspects relating to the Max Planck Society (MPG) in the context of the sale of U3 were coordinated by Max Planck Innovation. This company’s mandate is technology transfer from the Max Planck Society, so it supports MPG scientists in turning fundamental research results into marketable products by founding companies or concluding patent and license agreements. Since 2000, Max Planck Innovation has guided 40 spin-offs and 700 license agreements to earn revenues of about 140 million euros for the inventors, the institutes and the Max Planck Society. With this balance, Max Planck Innovation is globally one of the most successful technology transfer organizations.

With about 800 employees, the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry is one of the largest research institutes of the Max Planck Society. The institute was founded in 1973 on the Martinsried campus as the seed of life sciences and biotechnology. Internationally, it is one of the foremost research institutions in protein, structural and biomedical research.

Additional information is available from:

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Eva-Maria Diehl, Public Relations

Martinsried near Munich

Tel.: +49 89 8578 - 2824


Max Planck Innovation GmbH

Ulrich Mahr, member of the executive

Tel.: + 49 89 29 09 19-0, e-mail: mahr@max-planck-innovation.de

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