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Alexion $855m portfolio boost after Wilson Therapeutics buyout

Published on 11/04/18 at 08:25am

Alexion Pharmaceuticals is badly in need of alternative revenue streams to Soliris, its mega-blockbuster that could start to face competition in a few years’ time, and it’s made a minor step towards broadening its portfolio by acquiring Wilson Therapeutics.

Alexion has had an offer accepted of $855 million to acquire the Swedish biotech, which only has one candidate in the pipeline, to treat Wilson’s disease.

The potential treatment, WTX101, has already received positive data from a Phase 2 trial and is now undergoing Phase 3 testing. The drug prospect has already received Fast Track designation and Orphan Drug Designation in the US and EU.

Wilson’s disease is a rare condition whereby copper cannot be metabolised, which leads to deposits of copper accruing in the liver, brain and other disease.

If the condition is not identified then it can be fatal – one of the distinctive ways that it can be observed in those with the condition is by a copper coloured ring that forms around the iris of the eye.

Current forms of treatment are ineffective in 45% of patients and can have severe side-effects; WTX101 is able bind to copper in way that allows the body to safely excrete efficiently and in Phase 2 trials it was shown to reduce copper concentration in patients by 72%.

This success led to a successful share issue at the end of last year that €24.4 million and now it has received a bumper pay packet for its work in the area by attracting the attention of Alexion.

Ludwig Hantson, Chief Executive Officer of Alexion, said, “The acquisition of Wilson Therapeutics is a strong strategic fit for Alexion given the overlap with our current clinical and commercial focus on metabolic and neurologic disorders, and is an important first step in rebuilding our clinical pipeline.”

The idea that Alexion is “rebuilding” its clinical pipeline suggests that this may be the first of more such bolt-on acquisitions that can strengthen its portfolio. With a peak sales estimate of around $250 million for WTX101, the biotech will definitely need more prospects in its pipeline to diminish its reliance on Soliris.

Ben Hargreaves

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