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Sanofi swoops for Ablynx in $4.8bn deal

Published on 29/01/18 at 09:07am

Sanofi has moved quickly to tie up a deal with Ablynx for $4.8 billion, when it looked more likely that Novo Nordisk would wear down the biotech’s resistance with repeated bids. Novo’s loss is Sanofi’s gain, as the latter company has come racing out of the M&A blocks in January – having sealed a major acquisition only a week prior.

Both Sanofi and Novo chased Ablynx, the Belgian biotech, for its haematology pipeline, with its most advanced candidate, caplacizumab, expected to receive approval later this year in Europe. The anti-vWF nanobody is being lined up as a treatment for acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (aTTP), and the biotech due to file with the FDA during the first half of this year.

Of greater interest than this one candidate is Ablynx’s platform for drug discovery within the haemological space, with the biotech cultivating more than 45 drug candidates, eight of which are progressing in the clinic, through its work in the nanobody space.

The deal makes sense for Sanofi, as it had previously shown strong interest in the biotech by agreeing a deal worth a potential $2.9 billion in development and commercial milestones through their drug discovery collaboration.

It also builds on the previous acquisition announced by the company to acquire Bioverativ in a $11.6 billion deal, with this decision also bolstering its haematology portfolio and pipeline.

Sanofi's Chief Executive Officer Olivier Brandicourt commented: “With Ablynx, we continue to advance the strategic transformation of our Research and Development, expanding our late-stage pipeline and strengthening our platform for growth in rare blood disorders. This acquisition builds on a successful existing partnership. We are also pleased to reaffirm our commitment to Belgium, where we have invested significantly over the years in our state-of-the-art biologics manufacturing facility in Geel. We intend to maintain and support the Ablynx science centre in Ghent.”

Sanofi’s move represents a major blow to Novo Nordisk’s ambition that had made public its interest in pushing through an agreement for Ablynx. However, Novo were determined to drive the acquisition through at a lower price than was of interest for Ablynx, valuing the biotech at $3.2 billion – significantly lower than the $4.8 billion Sanofi paid out.

Ben Hargreaves

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