Two leading lights in the European drug discovery game, Elbion of Germany

and Belgium’s 4AZA Bioscience, have announced plans to merge.

The combined company, which will be called Elbion, will be headquartered

at 4AZA’s site in Leuven, Belgium, where it will concentrate its corporate

functions, business development and research facilities for immunology.

Elbion’s facilities and staff in Radebeul, Germany, will be retained to

“continue to drive the largest part of the company’s fully-integrated drug

discovery and development activity” focusing in the central nervous

system field.

The new group can boast partnerships with GlaxoSmithKline and Gilead

Sciences and it claims to have “a maturing pipeline with two products in

the clinic for areas of significant commercial potential,” as well as “a

further portfolio of high-quality, late pre-clinical development compounds.

Building a European presence

Bernd Kastler, Elbion’s chief executive, will take on the same role for

the combined group and will re-locate to Leuven. His counterpart at 4AZA,

Mark de Boer, will work with the new entity as a consultant.

Mr Kastler said that “bringing together two leading companies in Belgium

and Germany creates an excellent platform for building a significant

European company.”

He added that Belgium will “give us an excellent international base to

execute our growth strategy by adding to our pipeline through our own

discovery platforms, targeted in-licensing and further mergers and

acquisitions.” Elbion is also looking at maximising “the value of our

portfolio through further partnering of our compounds and through

selectively marketing products ourselves,” he concluded.

Elbion was created in 2002 as the result of a management buyout from

Degussa. Its lead product candidate, AWD 12-281, is a topical PDE4

inhibitor, in Phase II for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, and the

compound is licensed to GSK for worldwide, exclusive development and

commercialisation. 4AZA has an agreement with Gilead to develop compounds for the treatment of hepatitis C.