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Biota to merge with Nabi and move to US

Australian pharma company will move stateside to form Biota Pharmaceuticals

Australian pharma company Biota Holdings and US counterpart Nabi Biopharmaceuticals have revealed plans to merge and form a new Nasdaq-listed company called Biota Pharmaceuticals.

Nabi enters the merger deal after setbacks to its GlaxoSmithKline-partnered NicVax vaccine for nicotine addiction, including the failure of a second phase III trial last November, which forced it to cut expenses in order to conserve operating cash. At the time, the company said it was looking at a range of strategic alternatives, including a possible merger.

Biota Holdings said that the shift to the US would help it tap into a larger shareholder base and improve its liquidity, whilst also boosting its product portfolio and pipeline.

The deal, which is expected to close by September 30, would create a company worth around $225m and 74 per cent-owned by existing Biota shareholders.

The combined company would have a royalty-stream for already-marked products plus a stronger pipeline, with two antiviral drugs in clinical development and a portfolio of early-stage projects.

Biota already receives royalties on the influenza treatment Relenza (zanamivir), which is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline, as well as long-acting flu drug lnavir (indinavir) which is sold in Japan by Daiichi Sankyo.

It also has a contract worth about $231m from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) programme to develop a follow-up flu drug called laninamivir.

Also coming through the pipeline is vapendavir, in phase III testing as a treatment for rhinovirus infections.

A phase IIb trial reported last month showed that the drug achieved significant improvement in symptoms of the common cold, including higher peak expiratory flow function, lower viral infection incidence and reduced need to take asthma relief drugs compared with placebo.

Meanwhile, Nabi will contribute a potential royalty stream from PhosLyra (calcium acetate), a follow-up to a product called PhosLo which Nabi used to distribute on behalf of Fresenius, and various preclinical research programmes.

The combined company will also have early-stage drugs in development for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and hepatitis C, as well as a broad spectrum antibiotic programme in the area of gyrase inhibitors.

Biota Pharma will have around $100m in cash after the merger.

24th April 2012

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