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Almirall eyes $62m takeover of multicytokine specialist Bioniz

Gains clinical-stage drug for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

Almirall

Spanish biopharma company Almirall has signed an option agreement that could see it acquire Bioniz Therapeutics, bolting on a clinical-stage drug for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL).

Barcelona-based Almirall – which specialises in dermatology – says that the deal would expand its R&D pipeline with an additional three candidates on top of lead drug BNZ-1.

BNZ-1 a selective and simultaneous inhibitor of cytokines IL-2, IL-9 and IL-15 which is in early-stage testing for CTCL and also has potential for alopecia areata, a form of hair loss with no FDA-approved treatments.

The terms of the deal are an initial payment of $15m, which gives Almirall an option to acquire Irvine, California-based Bioniz outright once data from a phase 1/2 trial of BNZ-1 is available and subject to an end-of-phase 2 meeting with the FDA.

If it decides to go ahead within a 60-day option period, it will then pay $47m in instalments to take control of the US biotech, along with other undisclosed payments tied to the progress of BNZ-1 through to market.

A secondary part of the deal would see Bioniz’ pipeline assets other than BNZ-1, as well as the US biotech’s multicytokine inhibitor development platform, spun off into a new as-yet unnamed company.

The Spanish drugmaker would then forge an R&D alliance with the spin-off with the aim of adding at least three drugs ready for clinical testing that lie within its medical dermatology focus, and expanding its capabilities in “onco-dermatology and immuno-dermatology”.

Bioniz' other candidates currently lie outside that focus. BNZ-2 is a subcutaneously-delivered IL-15 and IL-21 inhibitor with potential in coeliac disease and other inflammatory disorders of the gut, while BNZ-3 is an orally-active IL-15/IL-21-targeting follow-up.

The option deal comes amid an expansionist phase for Almirall, which exercised an option to buy Dermira’s anti-IL-13 antibody lebrikizumab – heading for phase 3 testing in atopic dermatitis or eczema – last June for $50m upfront.

If approved, that would be a rival to Sanofi and Regeneron’s fast-growing atopic dermatitis therapy Dupixent (dupilumab). Meanwhile, Almirall is in the launch phase for Ilumya/Ilumetri (tildrakizumab) for psoriasis, with ambitions to extend its use into eczema.

The biggest deal to date however was Almirall’s acquisition of Allergan’s US dermatology unit last year in a deal valued at $650m, that included first-in-class tetracycline-derived drug Seysara, billed as the first oral antibiotic specifically designed for dermatology use in 40 years.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th January 2020

From: Sales

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