LifeArc portfolio company Ducentis BioTherapeutics acquired by Arcutis Biotherapeutics for up to $400 million

September 8, 2022
  • First exit for LifeArc Ventures, the largest investor in Ducentis, recognising the transformational potential of its science
  • Ducentis lead pre-clinical asset DS-234 is being developed for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, a significantly underserved market
  • Agreement values Ducentis at up to $400 million, including upfront cash payment of $16 million and Arcutis stock valued at approximately $14 million, plus future contingent payments based on development and commercial success

LONDON, UK, 08 September 2022 — LifeArc today announced that its portfolio company Ducentis BioTherapeutics, a preclinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel therapies for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, has been acquired by Arcutis Biotherapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ARQT), a California-based early commercial stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing meaningful innovations in immuno-dermatology. LifeArc was Ducentis’ largest investor, recognising the transformational potential of its science and supporting its early translational research.

Ducentis’ lead pre-clinical asset, DS-234, is being developed for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, a rapidly growing, significantly underserved market. DS-234 is a fusion protein that is a highly selective and potent agonist of CD200R, an immune-regulatory receptor thought to be an important immunological checkpoint, with a pivotal role in maintenance of immune tolerance.

“We’re delighted that Ducentis’ ground-breaking work demonstrating the potential of the immuno-regulatory receptor CD200R has been recognised by Arcutis,” said Clare Terlouw, Head of LifeArc Ventures and Ducentis board member. “Ducentis is one of LifeArc Ventures’ first seed investments and is the first exit within our venture portfolio. As the largest shareholder, we are proud to have supported the company’s development through scientific and strategic guidance over the past three years.”

Under the terms of the share purchase agreement, Arcutis will acquire the outstanding shares of Ducentis for an upfront cash payment of $16 million and Arcutis stock valued at approximately $14 million, as well as future contingent payments based on development and commercial success. Closing of the transaction will be subject to customary closing conditions.

“Arcutis has the resources, experience and commitment to accelerate clinical development of DS-234 to treat patients with atopic dermatitis, and, in future, other serious autoimmune diseases lacking effective treatment options,” said Philip Huxley, founder and former CEO of Ducentis. “With Arcutis’ depth of knowledge and capabilities in dermatology, and its team’s experience developing, manufacturing and commercialising biologics, we are confident Arcutis is well positioned to build on Ducentis’ pre-clinical work.”

“Ducentis’ DS-234 fits in well with our strategy of developing best-in-class molecules against biologically-validated targets and is highly complementary to roflumilast cream as another potential innovative treatment option,” said Frank Watanabe, Arcutis’ President and Chief Executive Officer.

“We are excited by the promise of checkpoint agonism as an emerging strategy for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Additionally, with the majority of our clinical, manufacturing, and commercial teams already possessing experience with biologic agents, DS-234 fits well with our team’s expertise. With a modest investment, we believe we can generate proof-of-concept data against a de-risked target in a high-value indication.”

Click here for Arcutis announcement

Notes to Editors

Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema, affecting approximately 26 million people in the U.S. It is characterised by a defect in the skin barrier, which allows allergens and other irritants to enter the skin, leading to an immune reaction and inflammation. It can markedly reduce patients’ quality of life and, in some cases, economic independence.

LifeArc is a self-funded medical research charity with more than 25 years of translating early science into health care treatment including a diagnostic for antibiotic resistance and four licensed medicines. Our model is built on collaboration, and through our LifeArc Ventures team, we invest in Seed and Series A stage companies with significant follow-on investment reserved for successful portfolio companies. Our ventures approach focuses on investing in novel translational science and technology with a dual goal of generating financial returns to the charity and positive impact for patients.
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