Novartis, Blackstone team up to launch cardiovascular-focused biotech
- Blackstone Life Sciences and Swiss drugmaker Novartis have teamed up and launched Anthos Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies for patients at risk of heart disorders.
- Novartis licensed an experimental antibody, dubbed MAA868, to the new company and will hold a minority equity interest. Blackstone, meanwhile, will back Anthos with a cash infusion of $250 million and will be in charge of pipeline development.
- Anthos is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is led by CEO John Glasspool, who previously ran Novartis's cardiovascular unit between 2004 and 2008, Blackstone said in a Wednesday statement. Jonathan Freeman, a senior advisor at Blackstone, is serving as chief operating officer.
The deal represents the first partnership test for Blackstone Life Sciences, which launched late last year after Blackstone bought the investment firm Clarus. At the time, Blackstone said it was acting to fill a "critical void in the industry," citing the sector's high growth and persistent appetite for fresh funding.
It's a model that's also being pursued by Pfizer and Bain Capital, which worked together to create a spinoff in October. That company, Cerevel Therapeutics, is focused on central nervous system disorders and started with $350 million in funding from Bain Capital. Pfizer holds a 25% stake.
Blackstone's newness to the space hasn't stopped it from setting high expectations for Anthos.
"We are building a leading cardiovascular company, laser focused on genetically and pharmacologically validated targets,” Glasspool said in Blackstone's press release.
The initial antibody Anthos will develop, MAA868, is designed to be an anti-thrombotic therapy — a market that may grow to reach between $20 billion to $25 billion a year, Nicholas Galakatos, head of Blackstone Life Sciences and chairman of Anthos, told The Wall Street Journal.
MAA868 targets two blood clotting factors known as Factor XI and XIa. While further details were sparse, Blackstone indicated the antibody would be aimed at a range of cardiovascular diseases and suggested it could provide longer-acting treatment than current anti-coagulant therapies.
Once dominated by warfarin, the anti-coagulant market has shifted toward oral anti-coagulants like Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and Eliquis (apixaban).
Two Novartis executives are serving in advisory capacities for the new company. Shaun Coughlin, head of the Swiss company's cardiovascular and metabolism unit, is an observer to the board. Craig Basson, head of cardiovascular and metabolism translational medicine for Novartis, is on Anthos's scientific advisory board.
The new company's board of directors includes Blackstone Managing Director Paris Panayiotopoulos and Blackstone Principal Ari Brettman.