Amgen buys kidney-disease biotech Ilypsa for $420M

Biotech powerhouse Amgen agreed to acquire Santa Clara, Calif.-based Ilypsa, a developer of drugs to treat complications of kidney disease, for $420 million in cash, roughly ten times what the company had raised in venture capital. The company’s release is here.

The high price could mean Amgen had to win a bidding war for Ilypsa, since one of the startup’s main investors was none other than the venture arm of Amgen archrival Johnson & Johnson.

Ilypsa has focused on drugs that can help prevent mineral buildups in the blood that result when the kidneys’ filtering system starts to go awry. The company’s lead drug candidate, ILY101, is designed to prevent dangerously high blood levels of phosphorus, a condition known as hyperphosphatemia, by binding to phosphorous in the digestive tract and preventing its absorption into the body. ILY101 is currently in mid-stage human testing. Other candidates in Ilypsa’s pipeline include similar binders for potassium and sodium.

Amgen, whose best-selling drugs are a family of anemia treatments often used in place of blood transfusions in kidney patients, has shown off-and-on interest in treatments for other complications of kidney disease. In 2004 it launched Sensipar, a drug it licensed from NPS Pharmaceuticals in 1996 that treats elevated levels of parathyroid hormone and calcium in kidney patients. Annual sales of the drug, however, haven’t yet topped $100 million.

Ilypsa, formerly known as Symyx Therapeutics, had previously raised $46 million in venture capital, according to VentureWire (subscription required). That includes what the company originally described as an $8 million first round in 2003 and a $36 million second round in mid-2005.

From VentureWire:

Sprout invested in a $10 million Series A round in 2003 alongside 5AM Ventures. The company went on to raise a $36 million Series B round in 2005, that included Sprout, 5AM and new investors CMEA Ventures, Delphi Ventures, Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., Mediphase Venture Partners and U.S. Venture Partners.