COI Pharmaceuticals acquires Calporta by Merck

COI Pharmaceuticals, which is backed by Avalon Ventures, has acquired Calporta Therapeutics Inc by Merck for $576 million. Calporta is developing selective small molecule agonists of TRPML1.


SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–COI Pharmaceuticals, the Community Of Innovation established by Avalon Ventures, today announced the acquisition of Calporta Therapeutics, Inc. by Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Calporta develops selective small molecule agonists to TRPML1. TRPML1 is believed to play a role in lysosomal function by promoting autophagy and lysosomal exocytosis. Calporta’s preclinical stage TRPML1 agonists are being evaluated for their potential to treat various lysosomal storage and neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Merck acquired Calporta for total potential consideration of up to $576 million, including an upfront payment and contingent milestone payments.

“This agreement with Merck is an important milestone towards the rapid development of a novel therapeutic approach that could help millions of people with degenerative disorders caused by toxic accumulation of proteins, fats, or other cellular macromolecules,” said Sanford J. Madigan, Ph.D., CEO of Calporta and senior vice president, business development of COI Pharmaceuticals. “I am proud of the Calporta team for their expertise, execution, and diligence in swiftly advancing a new scientific breakthrough toward the clinic.”

“Increasing evidence points to the accumulation of toxic proteins as a common mechanism in neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s,” said Fiona Marshall, PhD., vice president, neuroscience discovery Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to conducting further research to evaluate the potential of TRPML1 agonists to activate a natural clearance mechanism the brain employs to clear toxic proteins.”

TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily) is an important lysosomal ion channel and a known regulator of autophagy. The lysosome is a cellular compartment involved in the break down and recycling of cellular waste products, such as fats, proteins, and other macromolecules. Alterations in TRPML1 function have been implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases and dystrophies, where intracellular accumulation of proteins or fats have been shown to be toxic to the cell. Activating TRPML1 signaling with small molecules could reestablish lysosomal processes and restore cellular function.

“We review thousands of research papers annually for early-stage, breakthrough discoveries that have important therapeutic potential,” said Jay Lichter, Ph.D., managing director of Avalon Ventures and president and CEO of COI Pharmaceuticals. “As early as 2014, our scientists identified TRPML1 as an important target for improving lysosomal function. We saw the potential to treat a number of diseases by activating this ion channel, and we launched Calporta in early 2015. Now four years later, we have an agreement with Merck, an industry leader in biopharmaceutical research and development, which is key to advancing these therapies to clinical trials and patients.”

About COI Pharmaceuticals
COI Pharmaceuticals is an unconventional venture-pharma entity that provides life science inventors with an environment where entrepreneurial and scientific risks are encouraged and rewarded. This Community of Innovation (COI) was established in 2013 to support Avalon portfolio companies. COI provides the intellectual capital to launch companies, a fully-equipped R&D infrastructure and industry mentors prepared to leverage their expertise to help entrepreneurial scientists succeed. COI is located in La Jolla, California. For more information, please visit:

About Avalon Ventures
Avalon Ventures is a venture capital firm that has founded and/or funded more than 127 information technology and life sciences companies. The firm is passionate about backing talented entrepreneurs seeking to build market-leading companies. Throughout the firm’s 32-year tenure, Avalon’s long-standing and successful focus has been on seed and early-stage companies. All Avalon partners are seasoned entrepreneurs with experience in company formation, operations and value creation in the life science and tech sectors. Avalon’s current fund, launched in 2015, continues the firm’s tradition of pursuing disruptive ideas in ever changing markets. For more information, please visit: