Alexion to buy Synageva for jaw-dropping $8.4 billion

Industry observers have been left open-mouthed by the news that Alexion Pharmaceuticals is to buy fellow rare disease firm Synageva BioPharma Corp for $8.4 billion.

The cash-and-stock offer values Synageva at about $230 per share, a huge premium on its closing price of $95.87 on Tuesday (May 5). The deal will give Alexion access to Kanuma (sebelipase alfa) for lysosomal acid lipase deficiency LAL-D), a rare disease involving the build-up of fatty material in the blood and liver.

Kanuma has been fast-tracked on both sides of the Atlantic and regulatory decisions in the second half of 2015. Synageva’s pipeline includes SBC-103, an enzyme replacement therapy in an ongoing Phase I/II trial for patients with mucopolysaccharidosis IIIB.

Alexion is known for Soliris (eculizumab), its treatment for patients with paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS), two life-threatening ultra-rare disorders. Soliris, which costs the National Health Service £340,200 a year per patient, brought in $2.2 billion in revenues in 2014.

Alexion said that with strong ongoing Soliris growth and the anticipated 2015 launches of Kanuma and Strensiq (asfotase alfa), its new treatment for hypophosphatasia, it will have “three highly innovative and transformative therapies serving patients with four devastating and rare diseases”.

The new entity’s pipeline will have eight product candidates in clinical trials for eleven indications and more than 30 diverse pre-clinical programmes. Alexion said the deal “creates the most robust rare disease pipeline in biotech”, adding that it expects to achieve annual cost synergies starting this year, growing to at least $150 million in 2017. 

The transaction, which should be accretive to earnings per share in 2018,  is expected to close mid-2015 and Alexion has received committed financing of $3.5 billion from Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.

Gilead acquires EpiTherapeutics

Staying with acquisitions, Gilead Sciences, has bought EpiTherapeutics, a privately-held Danish company, for $65 million.

Gilead noted that EpiTherapeutics has generated a library of first-in-class, selective small molecule inhibitors of epigenetic regulation of gene transcription, in particular histone demethylases. The company’s lead pre-clinical compounds are being studied for the treatment of certain cancers.