BU launches Marathon Biopharmaceuticals
On January 6, Boston University formally started up Marathon Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., of Hopkinton, Mass., a contract biopharmaceutical services company that will join an emerging business sector within the biotechnology industry.
The creation of the firm is the result of the University's purchase of the manufacturing and clinical trials administration operations of Seragen, Inc., late last fall. Approximately 100 former Seragen employees are now employees of the new firm.
In the evolving biotech industry, many companies are choosing to focus more on the initial phases of product conception and development, while contracting clinical trials, manufacturing, and other services to outside firms at the appropriate stage. "There are companies that provide contract services as a sideline to absorb excess capacity, but few with our range of capabilities are dedicated to the contract services business," says Chen.
In addition to Seragen, Marathon already has two other manufacturing agreements, one with BioChem Vaccines, Inc., of Quebec, a subsidiary of Bio-Chem Pharma, and another with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., of New Haven.
"Seragen originally invested in its development and manufacturing infrastructure because the services needed -- particularly manufacturing services -- were not available elsewhere," says Reed R. Prior, Seragen's chairman and CEO. "The completion of this sale allows us to streamline the organization. We are deliberately moving from being a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company to becoming a "virtual" biotech company, where our principal asset is our intellectual property and we use third-party vendors wherever possible for service requirements.
Seragen, which received $5 million from BU for the sale of its manufacturing facility, is developing a proprietary portfolio of therapeutic products. The company's unique receptor-active fusion proteins consist of a toxin fragment genetically fused to a hormone, or growth factor, that targets receptors on the surface of disease-causing cells.
In December Seragen filed a biologics license application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requesting clearance to market its Interleukin-2 Fusion Protein for the treatment of advanced cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) in patients who have received prior therapy. CTCL is a disease in which certain cells of the lymphatic system become cancer and affect the skin. As the CTCL gets worse, tumors may form on the skin, and the disease can spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body, such as the spleen, lungs, or liver.