Categories Earnings, Health Care

Biogen buys Nightstar, eyeing a bigger pie in ophthalmic gene therapy

Continuing the efforts to diversify into new areas of drug development, Biogen (BIIB) this week clinched an important deal that would expedite the expansion of its ophthalmology portfolio. The biotechnology firm has been engaged in gene therapy programs for rare retinal diseases ever since it forayed into ophthalmology a few years ago.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based drugmaker Monday agreed to acquire UK-based Nightstar Therapeutics (NITE) for about $800 million or $25.50 per share. It expects to leverage Nightstar’s preclinical programs and multiple clinical assets, currently in the mid-to late-stages, which are considered to be the first in the category.

“With this proposed acquisition, we are continuing to bolster our pipeline and further execute on our strategy to develop and expand a multi-franchise neuroscience pipeline across complementary modalities. Nightstar would accelerate our entry into ophthalmology by contributing two mid- to late-stage gene therapy assets,” said Biogen’s CEO Michel Vounatsos.

It expects to leverage Nightstar’s preclinical programs and multiple clinical assets, which are considered to be the first in the category

The all-cash transaction, which does not require the approval of Biogen’s stockholders, is expected to complete by mid-2019. According to the management, since ophthalmology is an emerging growth area for the company, the new deal will create long-term shareholder value. Nightstar’s core area of operation is gene therapy, with focus on the development of therapies for the treatment of rare retinal diseases having a genetic link.

NSR-REP1, Nightstar’s lead asset that is being developed for the treatment of a rare condition called choroideremia is currently evaluated in its phase-3 clinical trial. Earlier, the results of the initial trial showed signs of improvement in visual acuity among patients.

NSR-RPGR is a potential treatment for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, another rare inherited retinal disease for which no effective treatment has been developed yet. Data from the early-stage studies revealed that NSR-RPGR was effective in increasing central retinal sensitivity in patients. The second phase of the trial is currently progressing.

Also see: Biogen Inc. Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

Biogen posted a marked increase in revenues in the fourth quarter, supported by the stable sales performance of its pioneering multiple sclerosis therapies. The top-line moved up 7% to $3.5 billion, driving adjusted earnings higher by 33% to $6.99 per share.

After registering a sharp loss in early February when it suffered a setback in the patent dispute with pharmaceuticals company Mylan, Biogen shares recovered and stabilized in the following weeks. The stock gained nearly 10% since the beginning of the year and 17% over the past twelve months.


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