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Novo A/S snatches up antibacterials-maker Xellia as part of new investment strategy

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Xellia's R&D site in Norway--Courtesy of Xellia Pharmaceuticals

Novo A/S, the Danish holding company of and major shareholder in Novo Nordisk ($NVO), has backed a wide range of startups since getting its start in 1999. But the company said today it is pursuing a new piece of its investment strategy focused on more well-established companies as it announced the $700 million purchase of anti-infectives maker Xellia Pharmaceuticals.

Oslo, Norway-based Xellia, a 2008 spinoff from Alpharma that's been under the ownership of investor 3i, has transformed from an API manufacturer to a producer of therapies that combat multidrug-resistant infections, with $220 million in 2012 revenue coming from antibacterial agents like vancomycin and colistimethate sodium.

Ulrik Spork, a managing partner for Novo Growth Equity, told FiercePharma that Xellia has an interesting pipeline that will be addressing the market in 2 to 5 years, and he said taking the pipeline forward is part of what Novo would be involved in.

"There's a very good business base that has been generated for the course of the period where it's been under 3i's ownership," Spork said. "We believe the existing production footprint could be further expanded, and it's likely we'll see further investments in strengthening the manufacturing infrastructure."

Xellia's products are manufactured using fermentation technologies similar to those used by several companies Novo has backed, and that's another reason Novo decided to snap up Xellia. "It's an area we understand well," Spork said. "We understand its possibilities, and we believe we as owners will be able to appreciate how this part of the business platform could be further explored."

Novo has a history of supporting a diverse group of life sciences companies from both the management and clinical sides. "We look forward to working with Novo and benefitting from their expertise in the life science sector. Together with Novo we can strengthen the positive development that Xellia has achieved over the past few years, and at the same time the investment by Novo will help accelerate our developments further," Xellia CEO Carl-Åke Carlsson said in a statement.

Since 1999, Novo has invested about $2 billion in companies across Europe and North America; $55.75 million of that--and 13 deals--came in 2012, including backing former GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) investigators seeking to spin out a new neurosciences technology biotech; contributing to American biotech Flexion as it develops osteoarthritis therapies; and, on the devices side, supporting 2012 Fierce 15 company Nevro with venture financing. This is its second investment in a well-established company, following up a deal of similar magnitude last year with Chr. Hansen Holding A/S.  

- read the release

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