Karuna plunders Goldfinch’s nest with hopes of repurposing kidney candidates for neuroscience

Karuna plunders Goldfinch’s nest with hopes of repurposing kidney candidates for neuroscience

Fierce Biotech may have only broken the story of Goldfinch Bio’s demise last Friday, but Karuna Therapeutics has already raced to the closing down sale to take its pick from the shuttered biotech’s pipeline.

For $15 million upfront, Karuna has secured Goldfinch’s transient receptor potential canonical 4 and 5 (TRPC4/5) channel candidates, including lead asset GFB-887, which has undergone midstage studies for a pair of kidney conditions. But Karuna has something very different in mind.

The biotech will “evaluate the candidates as potential treatments for various psychiatric and neurological conditions, starting with GFB-887 for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.”

Karuna has been garnering a lot of attention recently—including being named one of Fierce’s top M&A targets of 2023—thanks to the game-changing potential of its late-stage schizophrenia drug KarXT. But beyond that much-hyped therapy, the biotech has yet to get another drug into the clinic or even reveal the indications for its other muscarinic-targeted candidates. The deal with Goldfinch immediately doubles Karuna’s clinical-stage portfolio as well as opening up fresh mechanisms to explore.

“We believe that the TRPC4/5 mechanism could represent a completely novel approach to treating mood and anxiety disorders and complements our existing pipeline of differentiated potential medicines,” Karuna CEO Bill Meury said in a release Thursday morning. “This agreement aligns with our strategic goal to become a fully integrated neuroscience company with treatments that could offer much more than just incremental benefits to patients, and we look forward to sharing next steps for the program later this year.”

It marks a very different trajectory for GFB-887. A phase 2 study last year found that the med’s ability to reduce proteinuria compared to placebo was best seen in patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare kidney disease marked by blood vessel scarring in the glomerulus. But it was not effective in diabetic nephropathy, a more common condition. The clinical trial record says that the study was terminated in November 2022 due to business reasons.

The deal with Karuna will therefore come as good news for Goldfinch’s creditors, who could be in line for up to $520 million in milestone payments for each candidate that makes it to approval. Goldfinch is now in assignment for the benefit of creditors—an alternative to bankruptcy—after the company failed to secure additional financing.

In addition to GFB-887, Goldfinch was working on GFB-024, a second clinical-stage asset for severe insulin-resistant diabetic nephropathy.

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