Horizon Therapeutics, which is well known for its rare disease portfolio, has decided to take over AstraZeneca spinout Viela Bio. The acquisition worth $3 billion guarantees Horizon a package of Viela’s clinical-phase autoimmune and inflammatory disease drug candidates and an FDA-approved rare disease drug, Uplinza.
Viela won approval for Uplinza last year, which is meant to treat patients suffering from neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), a rare condition that causes vision loss and mobility problems. This is the second treatment to get FDA OK for this indication after Alexion’s Soliris.
Horizon is paying $53 a share to acquire Viela, which is well above the $35 closing price last week. AstraZeneca who had a 26.7% stake in the company will sell its part and is expected to gain between $760 to $780 million.
In a statement Bing Yao, Ph.D., chairman, and CEO, Viela Bio said “We believe that the combined pipeline, including the pursuit of additional potential indications, has the potential to yield innovative new medicines to treat autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases. Our collective R&D expertise coupled with Horizon’s commercial capabilities has the potential to provide benefit to more patients with high unmet treatment needs.”
What does Viela have to offer?
Horizon has been a voracious acquirer in the past. It has made deals with Hyperion Therapeutics, Raptor Pharmaceuticals, and River Vision Development Corp to expand its rare disease drugs pipeline. Although the company went silent last year on the M&A front, it kept a close watch on potential players it could net. Horizon found a perfect match in Viela, which has made tremendous progress since its inception.
Viela spun out of AstraZeneca 3 years ago with six autoimmune drug candidates which were given to Viela’s CEO following the reorganization of its AZ’s subsidiary MedImmune. Within three years of its formation, the company gained $150 million through IPO and bagged the FDA approval for one of its rare disease drugs which are meant for treating patients with NMOSD, a rare condition that affects an estimated 10,000 people in the US. Now that candidate is in clinical development for additional indications such as myasthenia gravis, a rare muscular disorder, which has been at the center of other recent biotech acquisitions.
Viela’s other five candidates are equally impressive. It has a fusion protein candidate VIB4920 that is in phase 2b development as a treatment for Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney transplant rejection, an anti-ILT7 monoclonal antibody, VIB7734 that is in phase 2 clinical trial for systemic lupus erythematosus and a monoclonal antibody for autoimmune diseases, VIB1116 which is about to enter clinical trials this year.
“This acquisition represents a significant step forward in advancing our strategy – to expand our pipeline in order to accelerate our growth over the long term,” said Horizon CEO, Tim Walbert in a statement.
“Adding Viela’s research and clinical development capabilities along with its deep, mid-stage biologics pipeline to our seasoned R&D and commercial teams, advances our transformation to an innovation-driven biotech company where we will build on the success of TEPEZZA and KRYSTEXXA to bolster our long-term growth trajectory. We intend to maximize the full potential of Viela’s pipeline, including the pursuit of additional future indications.”
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