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Dendrimer-ger
November 2006
by Randall C. Willis  |  Email the author
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STORY UPDATE
MELBOURNE—February 19, 2007—Following quickly on the heels of its merger with Dendritic Nanotechnologies (DNT), Starpharma announced it has established a global exclusive license and supply agreement with Merck KGaA's life sciences division EMD Biosciences. The deal, for which no financial information was disclosed, will see DNT supply its dendrimer-based PrioFect transfection reagents to the chemical supplier. "The agreement introduces Starpharma as a player in siRNA research, an area that is undergoing rapid growth and seems poised to become a major source of new medicines for many human diseases," says Dr. Jackie Fairley, Starpharma CEO.
 
 
MELBOURNE—Looking to gain a stronger presence in the U.S. market, Australian drug delivery specialist Starpharma announced it would acquire Mount Pleasant, Mich.-based Dendritic Nanotechnologies (DNT) for almost $7 million. The move also sees Starpharma gain an even stronger foothold in the growing nanobio­technology market, which a recent report by Frost & Sullivan sug­gests will hit almost $550 million in Europe alone by 2012.
 
According to Dr. Jackie Fairley, Starpharma CEO, the transaction offers significant benefits to her company, not the least of which are the provision of diversified product pipeline with near-term cash-flow opportunities and a more balanced risk profile. The acquisition also means that Starpharma will have Dow Chemical Company as a sub­stantial shareholder, which Fairley says will raise the profile both with partners and the financial commu­nity and provide opportunities to interact with Dow on a business level.
 
The product portfolios of both Starpharma and DNT are large­ly based on dendrimers—large, branch-chained structures that have been used for everything from surface coatings to sensors, antimicrobials, cosmetics, pig­ments and dyes, according to Dr. Robert Berry, DNT CEO.
 
"We believe that the combined entity is ideally placed to capital­ize on the significant commercial opportunities for the technology, building on Starpharma's expertise in pharmaceutical development of dendrimers and the opportunity to commercialize dendrimer technol­ogy in pharmaceuticals, life-sci­ence and industrial applications," Fairley says.
 
"The development synergies that result from combining the respective dendrimer product plat­forms of DNT and Starpharma, as well as the development expertise, IP portfolios and commercial leads and business opportunities, will lead to faster, more cost-effective, and more efficient application development," Berry adds.
 
The acquisition comes at a good time in the nanobiotechnol­ogy market as more companies are beginning to realize the promised benefits of applying nanoparticles to drug delivery and diagnostic challenges.
 
"The small size, surface tailor­ability, improved solubility and multifunctionality of nanoparti­cles are opening many new avenues of research for biologists," noted analyst Dr. Amarpreet Dhiman in the Frost & Sullivan report The Role of Nanotechnology in European Drug Discovery. "Nanoparticles may modify the way cells behave and the potential routes of expo­sure include the gastrointestinal tract, skin and lungs."
 
Not only will Starpharma benefit technologically from the acquisition, it will also benefit financially from the existing contracts that DNT is executing with leading life science groups such as Lumera or the NCI's Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory. In 2005, DNT's revenue stream from royalties and product sales was $1.25 million.
 
Given Starpharma's interest in further developing the existing synergies, Fairley suggests that the acquisition should have no negative impact on the U.S.-based operations or its existing contracts. To that end, Berry will remain in charge of the U.S. subsidiary, while DNT CSO Dr. Donald Tomalia—inventor of dendrimers—will remain with the company to continue the development of the technology.

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