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Companies Partner on Kidney Disease in $2B Deal


(Erica Maxine, Pixabay)

8 May 2019. A collaboration between a biopharmaceutical maker and biotechnology company aims to develop precision medicines for treating various kidney diseases. The agreement with Gilead Sciences in Foster City, California will bring the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotechnology enterprise Goldfinch Bio $109 million initially, but could also bring Goldfinch nearly $2 billion more if all aspects of the deal are exercised.

Goldfinch Bio, founded in 2016, discovers precision medicines for chronic kidney disease, including diabetic nephropathy, damage to kidneys resulting from diabetes. In people with diabetes, basic components of kidneys known as nephrons, thicken and become scarred, leaking albumin proteins into the urine. Damage can occur and continue for years before symptoms develop, with diabetic nephropathy now considered a major cause of sickness and death among people with diabetes, often requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The company notes that the last major drug for treating chronic kidney disease was approved more than 20 years ago, and despite advances in care such as dialysis and transplants, an urgent need remains for new treatments. In addition, Goldfinch points out that chronic kidney disease is actually a collection of different conditions, not a single disorder, thus the need for treatments aimed more at the root causes of the disease.

A key element of the Goldfinch technology is a registry of kidney disease patients called the Kidney Genome Atlas that the company says has thousands of de-identified clinical records. The atlas also contains genomic sequencing data from the patients, along with data on RNA transcribed from patients’ DNA and related proteins.

In addition, Goldfinch uses sample kidney tissue derived from stem cells, called organoids, to screen and validate treatment candidates that match those patient profiles and conditions. As reported by Science & Enterprise in February, Goldfinch co-founder Joseph Bonventre at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, was part of a team using stem cells and 3-D printing to create kidney organoids with blood vessel networks.

The multi-year collaboration with Goldfinch — exact timetable was not disclosed — gives Gilead Sciences access to Goldfinch’s Kidney Genome Atlas and kidney organoids for target validation and drug discovery. The agreement calls for Goldfinch to expand the atlas beyond its current focus on rare diseases to include diabetic kidney disease. Goldfinch will lead discovery and initial development of new therapy candidates, with Gilead receiving an exclusive option to license any of those candidates.

Gilead will then be responsible for further development and commercialization of new products. Goldfinch retains an option to lead the development of candidates identified under the partnership, with Goldfinch also retaining its current development programs for diabetic kidney disease, and a rare kidney disease known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.

Under the agreement, Gilead Sciences is paying Goldfinch Bio an initial fee of $55 million, which includes a $5 million equity stake for Gilead in the company. Goldfinch will receive another $54 million to upgrade the Kidney Genome Atlas to include diabetic kidney disease. In addition, Goldfinch is eligible for up to $1.95 billion in milestone payments for the first 5 products from the collaboration, as well as royalties on sales of products from the partnership. Goldfinch also can later share in profits for products developed under the agreement and sold in the U.S. treating undisclosed kidney disorders.

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