alantos-logo.jpgAmgen suddenly has a voracious appetite for startups. In its second deal this week, the biotech giant acquired Cambridge, Mass., biotech Alantos Pharmaceuticals for $300 million in cash. (The release is here.)

Founded in Heidelberg, Germany in 1999, Alantos changed its name from Therascope in 2003 and moved to Cambridge in 2004. The company develops traditional “small molecule” drugs — that is, therapies that can be delivered as pills rather than shots — for a variety of conditions; its lead candidate is a novel type of diabetes drug called a DPP-IV inhibitor now in early-stage trials. Should it succeed, that drug seems likely to face significant competition; Merck’s DPP-IV inhibitor Januvia is already on the market, and several other pharmas and biotechs are pursuing their own.

According to VentureWire (subscription required), Alantos’ backers included Oxford Bioscience Partners, SV Life Sciences, Heidelberg Innovation, Ventech and ABN Amro. It has raised a total of $47 million, making this a nice payday for the company’s European investors.

Following Amgen’s $420 million acquisition of Ilypsa, that makes $720 million the big biotech has dropped on startups this week — a substantial sum by any measure. Last fall, Amgen also acquired Mountain View, Calif.-based Avidia for up to $380 million, so that’s well over $1 billion it has committed to startup acquisitions over the past nine months.

The mini-spree marks a recent departure for the biotech, which over the past five years has tended to acquire other public biotechs with marketed or late-stage products such as Immunex, Abgenix and Tularik. It suggests that Amgen is feeling some pressure to refill its pipeline, although since the payoff is still likely some time away, it likely isn’t related to the company’s recent problems with its anemia-drug franchise or its new colon-cancer drug Vectibix.