Intarcia buys Phoundry in search of additional diabetes drugs for its subdermal drug pump

The ITCA 650 subdermal drug pump--Courtesy of Intarcia

Intarcia, the maker of a subdermal pump for once-a-year diabetes drug delivery, added optimized peptides to its arsenal via the acquisition of the Research Triangle's Phoundry Pharmaceuticals. It's the first-ever acquisition for Intarcia, which seeks additional compounds to deliver via its investigational drug delivery device, dubbed ITCA 650.

Phoundry is only a couple of months old. It was formed by 6 scientists who were recently laid off from GlaxoSmithKline's Enteroendocrine Discovery Performance Unit as part of a 900-person round of job cuts.

The acquisition adds two programs to Intarcia's pipeline. They consist of its drug delivering ITCA 650 pump and a peptide targeting Type 2 diabetes and obesity. A strong stable of compounds would add to the pump's main advantage: the implant delivers drugs for 6 to 12 months at a time. This reduces the medication noncompliance and nonadherance that plagues diabetes pills and injectables.

"Both companies share a common vision that combination therapies of optimized peptides have the potential to mimic and extend the metabolic benefits and weight loss potential associated with bariatric surgery, all potentially delivered in our proprietary once or twice yearly minipumps. Phoundry's team brings over 120 years of combined experience in peptide drug discovery and translational medicine insights that are invaluable to us in our target markets. Their team has a proven track record of producing medicines and they have worked for years to design optimized peptides to specifications that are a perfect fit for our targets and our mini-pump delivery systems," said Intarcia CEO Kurt Graves in a statement.

Intarcia did not disclose the price of the cash and stock deal, but said it will retain all Phoundry employees, as well as the company's research presence in Research Triangle Park, NC.

Intarcia's prospects were recently buoyed by a clinical trial showing that its drug pump beat Merck's ($MRK) mega blockbuster oral diabetes med Januvia at reducing HbA1C levels and weight loss in a Phase III clinical trial, increasing hopes for the combination product's FDA approval in 2016. The candidate releases the drug exenatide (marketed as Byetta in its injectable form by AstraZeneca).

Intarcia is also studying delivery of a single antibody fragment targeting the same condition in collaboration with Swiss Biotech Numab.

In addition, The Boston Globe reports that the 50-person company plans to increase its Boston workforce to more than 100 employees by the end of year, and aims to have up to 300 employees there by the end of 2017. It's also moving to into a larger office next year, the paper reports, just a year after moving its previous Bay Area headquarters into the city. The company's manufacturing operations still occur in Hayward, CA.

In a statement, Phoundry CEO Kurt Graves said that 52% of the U.S. population has Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, citing the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Procedural treatments involving medical devices are increasingly being deployed to fight the disease. Fellow diabetes specialist Fractyl just announced that its investigational procedure to modify the lining of the small intestine using thermal ablation achieved a reduction in HbA1c levels from 8.5% to 7.1% at 6 months and cut patients' weight by about 5 pounds.

- read the release