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Aclaris (ACRS) Scoops Up St. Louis Startup in Deal Worth Up to $100M

8/8/2017 7:06:38 AM

Aclaris Therapeutics Scoops Up St. Louis Startup in Deal Worth Up to $100M August 8, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

MALVERN, Pa. – Dermatologic-focused Aclaris Therapeutics, Inc. (ACRS) is expanding its pipeline into new territory with the acquisition of Missouri-based Confluence Life Sciences, Inc., a seven-year-old privately-held startup focused on the discovery and development of kinase inhibitors to treat inflammatory and immunological disorders and cancer.

Aclaris is acquiring Confluence in a deal worth up to $100 million when milestones are factored in. The Pennsylvania-based Aclaris provided $10 million in cash and also issues $10 million worth of company stock to Confluence. Confluence will receive up to $80 million based on potential milestones, according to the terms of the deal.

The two companies already have a history of collaborating.

Neal Walker, president and chief executive officer of Aclaris said the deal for Confluence allows the company to “solidify its existing position” in the market space for inflammatory and autoimmune skin disorders. Additionally the deal will allow the company to expand into “relevant adjacent therapeutic areas.” In the announcement Walker pointed to Confluence’s drug discovery technology, the KINect Platform that will provide the company with its own in-house discovery and rational drug design platform. The KINect Platform is a kinase-focused drug discovery engine utilizing computational chemistry to integrate proprietary compound collections and highly experienced biologists and medicinal chemists to identify and advance potential candidates into preclinical and clinical development. The platform is focused on kinase targets relevant to immunology - autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation, Aclaris said in its announcement.

The KINect program focuses on both reversible and irreversible inhibitors and interrogates both Type 1 and Type 2 kinase conformations. The compound library is directed toward the cysteinome subset of kinases (60 percent of the kinome) which contains many important but hard-to-drug kinases.

The acquisition will bring Confluence’s two lead products, CDD-450, a novel MK-2 pathway inhibitor, topical Janus kinase inhibitors ("soft JAK"), and IL2-inducible T-cell kinase ("ITK") inhibitor programs, into the Aclaris pipeline.
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"Confluence is at the forefront of innovation in the discovery and development of new compounds and new approaches to treating patients with severe and debilitating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases," Walker said in a statement. “The acquisition is a significant step forward in building a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company, and we look forward to progressing Confluence's MK-2, soft JAK and ITK inhibitor programs."

There are no expected layoffs as part of the deal. With an infusion of capital Confluence will add additional research space next year, the t. Louis Dispatch reported this morning.

“Aclaris is taking a lead role in dermatology-related inflammation and immunologic disorders of the skin—particularly in JAK inhibitors for hair loss disorders. In parallel, Confluence brings established drug discovery and development capabilities for JAK inhibitors, as well as for additional kinase inhibitors with immediate relevance to dermatology,” Walter Smith, Confluence’s CEO said in a statement.

The acquisition continues a stream of good news for Aclaris. In early August, the company submitted an Investigational New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for ATI-50002, a topical Janus Kinase (JAK) 1/3 inhibitor, for the treatment of patchy alopecia area. The company said it intends to initiate two Phase II trials by the end of the year.

In May, the FDA accepted Aclaris’ New Drug Application for its topical treatment for seborrheic keratosis, a common skin condition. The FDA is expected to make a decision by late December. If approved, the solution A-101 would be the first FDA-approved topical medication for the treatment of SK.

Shares of Aclaris are up slightly this morning. The stock is trading at $27.19 as of 9:37 a.m.

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