Swiss drug manufacturer Roche has agreed to acquire US biotechnology firm Adheron Therapeutics for $580m to expand its drug portfolio to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Adheron has developed a new technology that disrupts immune cell adhesion through Cadherin-11 (Cad-11), a cell surface protein, to develop potential treatments for these diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibrotic diseases.

SDP051, the company’s humanised monoclonal antibody that targets Cadherin-11 (Cad-11) has completed the initial phase of clinical development.

Following the transaction, further development of SDP051 will be pursued by Roche.

"It is an important step towards the development of breakthrough medicines in the area of inflammation and fibrosis."

As part of the deal, Adheron’s shareholders will get $105m in cash up front plus up to $475m if the company achieves certain milestones.

Results showed that the Cad-11 inhibitor is safe and well-tolerated at doses up to 10mg/kg per day with no evidence of significant side effects.

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Cad-11 acts as an adhesive between cells, it is a surface protein expressed on fibroblasts in the skin and lungs, and fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) in the joints.

Adheron Therapeutics chief executive officer Hari Kumar said: "We are very excited about this acquisition, as it is an important step towards the development of breakthrough medicines in the area of inflammation and fibrosis.

"This deal brings together Adheron’s deep understanding of the underlying science of Cadherin-11 with Roche’s vast experience in researching and developing next generation medicines."

Following customary closing conditions, the deal is expected to be completed soon.

Adheron’s SDP051 was fully humanised using Abzena’s Composite Human Antibody technology.

Abzena CEO John Burt said: "The acquisition of Adheron by a major pharma company is great endorsement and validation of our composite human antibody approach for creation of fully humanised therapeutic antibodies.

"This is also the third time we have seen the acquisition of a biotech company, pursuing products created through the application of our technology to improve their clinical profile."

Adheron was funded by a group of venture investors including Health Care Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Partners Innovation Fund, Amgen Ventures and SROne.