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TheraCode Buys JPT for $6.8M in Bid to Build Biomarker-Discovery Business

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TheraCode, a wholly owned subsidiary of biotech firm BioNTech, has acquired JPT Peptide Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of German drug maker Jerini, for €5 million ($6.8 million) in cash, according to a JPT official.

Holger Wenschuh, managing director of Berlin-based JPT, told BioArray News this week that the deal closed May 5. Mainz, Germany-based TheraCode, a new firm financed by Hexal co-founders Andreas and Thomas Strüngmann, will use JPT's peptide array resources in its cancer drug-discovery programs, though JPT will remain free to offer its products and services to third parties, Wenschuh said.

TheraCode has "expertise in developing new immunotherapuetics in the field of cancer," said Wenschuh. "What is complementary is that JPT has the peptide platform to discover novel biomarkers that are indicated for certain disease stages, while TheraCode has access to clinics."

Representatives of TheraCode did not respond to e-mails seeking comment.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said JPT "not only provides us with access to its unique and proprietary portfolio of peptide technologies, but [the deal] will also accelerate JPT's continued growth, increase its visibility, and further improve its well-recognized services to an international client base." For TheraCode, the acquisition is part of its long-term strategy to provide "comprehensive technology platforms for drug and biomarker development."

JPT had been a wholly owned subsidiary of Jerini, a Berlin-based pharmaceutical company specializing in peptide-based assays. Jerini last August was acquired by the UK's Shire Pharmaceuticals group for $521 million. And earlier this month Jerini said in a statement that it decided to sell JPT as part of a wider strategy to divest non-strategic businesses and focus on its core business, the commercialization of the hereditary angioedema drug Firazyr (icatibant).

Since the Shire acquisition, JPT has been looking for a new investor to support its goals of discovering biomarkers and developing immunotherapeutics, Wenschuh said.

JPT provides peptide-based services as well as high-content peptide arrays, peptide tools, and peptide libraries for the development of vaccines, according to the firm. It is one of a handful of companies that produces catalog peptide arrays. Others include Oftersheim, Germany-based PepPerPrint; Rockville, Md.-based 20/20 GeneSystems; and Nantes, France-based ProtNeteomix.

Wenschuh said that the acquisition by TheraCode will not interfere with JPT's role as a peptide arrays and services provider, and that the company will continue to extend its services to third parties. However, it will also work with TheraCode to develop cancer diagnostics.
"We are currently providing peptide-related tools to serve … third parties and we consider ourselves to be strong in the field of antibody-signature profiling and cellular-response profiling," Wenschuh said. "Our goal is to become an immune-monitoring company."

In addition to its facilities in Berlin, JPT maintains an office in Acton, Mass., outside of Boston. Wenschuh said that JPT will retain its US business-development office, and has plans to extend its array services to the US. He declined to elaborate.

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