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Biogen boosts pipeline with $1bn Ionis deal

Published on 23/04/18 at 10:35am

Somewhat unusually for an early drug development deal, Biogen has put down a serious amount of cash up-front in its $1 billion drug development deal with Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

Perhaps signifying the confidence Biogen has in Ionis’ technology, it was prepared to pay $375 million to secure up to seven drug candidates.

The rest of the deal is made up of Biogen cementing its stake in the company, by acquiring $625 million worth of stock.

Biogen’s confidence that at least one of these seven candidates, which the deal states will hit the clinic in the next two years, is down to the previous success the two companies achieved in developing Spinraza.

Spinraza, the first on market treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, comes with a huge price tag of $750,000 in the first year of treatment and Biogen managed to make the most of this price by generating sales of $884 million of the product last year.

“Biogen and Ionis share a commitment and passion to bring new therapeutic options to those living with neurological diseases where the unmet medical need is high and growing,” said Michel Vounatsos, Chief Executive Officer of Biogen. “We believe that this new collaboration will allow us to meaningfully expand our neuroscience pipeline in a way that differentiates Biogen. With the large number of diseases that could benefit from Ionis’ antisense platform, we believe that the time is now to build upon our highly productive collaboration with Ionis as we aim to transform the treatment of neurological diseases around the world.”

The deal will look into discovering treatments in the areas of dementia, neuromuscular diseases, movement disorders, ophthalmology, diseases of the inner ear, and neuropsychiatry.

Should a suitable candidate come along in any of these areas, Biogen will be doing a lot of heavy-lifting, as it is entirely responsible for all development.

Ionis will still be eligible to receive milestones and royalties on any successfully developed treatment, which makes for a good deal for Ionis and its share price reflected it, being up by 5.8%.

Shares in Biogen, meanwhile, were indifferent – down by 1.1% on the deal, reflecting the pressure on the company to make a bigger splash in M&A, a call the company has so far resisted.

Ben Hargreaves

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