Micro-cap Mei Pharma lands $100M upfront on beleaguered PI3K pathway

For Mei Pharma, the road to Morimoto ? an upscale, dungeon-like sushi restaurant run by a celebrity chef, surrounded by wavy abstract walls and crowded with plexiglass booths where, last year, a micro-cap biotech could make their case to a large global partner between events at BIO?s Philadelphia convention ? was long.

Nearly a decade ago, the San Diego biotech had seen a presentation at ASH on a preclinical cancer pill that targeted a cellular pathway known as PI3K, or?phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor. It seemed to be involved in a host of cell processes, including as a back channel for cancers blocked in other directions. Biotechs were just figuring out how to drug it.

David Urso

Eventually, many drugs would get lost down that pathway, crippled by tolerability issues that rendered them commercially or medica