Published On: Mon, Apr 9th, 2018

Novartis to buy US gene therapy company AveXis for $8.7bn

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Novartis acquisition of AveXis : Swiss pharma company Novartis has struck a $8.7 billion to acquire US gene therapy company AveXis in a move to bolster its gene therapy and neuroscience pipeline.

Novartis Acquisition of AveXis

As per the latest pharma acquisition news, Novartis has agreed to pay $218 for each of the AveXis shares. The deal has been given the nod by the board of directors of the two companies.

Novartis acquisition of AveXis comes on the back of the Swiss pharma company’s $13 billion deal with GlaxoSmithKline in late March to sell its stake of 36.5% in their consumer healthcare joint venture to the British pharma company.

As of now, Novartis’ new acquisition target – AveXis is conducting multiple clinical trials for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare neuromuscular disorder that is passed on to offspring owing to a defect in the survival motor neuron protein.

Novartis Head Quarters in Switzerland

Novartis headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Andrew- from Flickr/Wikipedia.org.

The main gene therapy candidate of the US gene therapy company is AVXS-101, which had secured orphan drug designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for SMA treatment and also the breakthrough therapy designation for SMA Type 1 treatment.

SMA Type 1 is regarded as the most prevalent genetic disorder among infants that leads to their death.

Commenting on Novartis acquisition of AveXis, Vas Narasimhan – CEO of Novartis, said: “The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition. The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience.

“We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas. We look forward on the closing of the deal to a smooth transition for AveXis employees and welcoming them to Novartis.”

AVXS-101, if approved by the FDA, will become the first-in-class one-time therapy to effectively replace the defective SMN1 gene, thereby showing a great promise of addressing the root genetic cause of SMA.

The lead candidate of AveXis has proved itself in a clinical study by demonstrating life-saving efficacy. In the trial, all 15 infants treated with the AVXS-101 gene therapy were event free at 20 months, in comparison to an event-free survival rate of 8% in an historical cohort.

Paul Hudson – CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, commenting on Novartis acquisition of AveXis, said: “Bringing AveXis on board would support both our ambition to be a leader in neurodegenerative diseases and our Neuroscience franchise priorities to strengthen our position in devastating pediatric neurological diseases such as SMA.

“We relish the opportunity to leverage our expertise, our 70-plus year heritage in neuroscience and our global footprint to help AVXS-101 benefit high-need SMA patients around the world.”

Apart from the SMA gene therapy candidate AVXS-101, AveXis also has other products in clinical development for Rett Syndrome (RTT) and a genetic form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disorder that is caused by mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 gene.

Commenting on Novartis acquisition of AveXis, Sean Nolan – President and CEO of AveXis, said: “The commitment, drive and expertise of the entire AveXis team has created significant stockholder value, and we are pleased that Novartis recognizes that value in the potential of AVXS-101, our first in class manufacturing capabilities and our gene therapy pipeline, all of which serve to transform the lives of people devastated by rare and life threatening neurological diseases such as SMA, Rett syndrome and genetic ALS.

“With worldwide reach and extensive resources, Novartis should expedite our shared vision of bringing gene therapy to these patient communities across the globe as quickly and safely as possible.”

Novartis acquisition of AveXis is likely to be wrapped up in mid-2018, subject to certain closing conditions as per the latest pharma acquisition news.

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