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Amgen buys Danish partner Nuevolution for $167m

Copenhagen-based biotech will remain autonomous

nuevolution

Amgen has agreed to buy Danish biotech Nuevolution for 1.61bn krona ($167m), three years after forging a drug discovery alliance with the company.

The board of Copenhagen-based, Sweden-listed Nuevolution has accepted a 32.5 Swedish krona per share offer from Amgen, which is a 169% premium on the company’s closing price yesterday.

Nuevolution has developed a drug discovery platform based around a DNA-encoded drug library and high-throughput screening capabilities designed to rapidly select drugs for an array of tough-to-drug disease targets.

Amgen said the deal came after it had decided to opt into two cancer programmes born out of the alliance, that had “progressed at high speed.”

The original agreement was for Nuevolution to work on oncology and neuroscience therapeutics, with Amgen pledging up to $410m per target. That suggests that while Amgen is clearly happy with the progress made in its partnership it stands to make a considerable saving by buying the company outright.

It will inherit established partnerships that Nuevolution also signed with the likes of Almirall, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Danish firm’s website, and analysts at Edison said in March Nuevolution’s partnerships – including its Amgen alliance - had collectively netted it around 530m krona ($55m) in funding.

The Almirall partnership includes a RORγt inhibitor with potential in dermatology and psoriatic arthritis that is expected to start phase 1 testing before the end of the year, while Nuevolution is working with J&J’s Janssen pharma unit on oncology, inflammation and Infectious disease programmes.

It’s worth noting that RORγt inhibitors have a somewhat chequered history , with AstraZeneca and Allergan both having recent failed programmes in this category (AZD0284 and AGN-242428, respectively).

Amgen also takes control of an early-stage internal pipeline which also includes a RORγt Inhibitor for cancer and other indications, as well as BET bromodomain inhibitors for inflammatory diseases and a small-molecule interleukin-17a inhibitor that could rival injectable IL-17 biologics such as Novartis’ Cosentyx (secukinumab) and Eli Lilly’s Taltz (ixekizumab).

Nuevolution will continue to operate with its same management team, including chief executive Alex Haahr Gouliaev, and is offering golden handshake deals to employees valued at up to $8.5m over three years to try to retain them.

The biotech’s board of directors has unanimously recommended the deal to shareholders, and says that its three largest institutional shareholders - Sunstone, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB and Industrifonden – have agreed to accept the deal on the table. They collectively own around 59% of Nuevolution shares.

Earlier this year, Amgen chief executive Bob Bradway said the company intended to pursue acquisitions – both large and small – to bolster its pipeline.

The company is starting to face biosimilar competition for white blood cell stimulator Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) as well as generic encroachment on Sensipar (cinacalcet) for secondary hyperparathyroidism, which together accounted for around a quarter of its revenues last year.

Article by
Phil Taylor

22nd May 2019

From: Marketing

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