- Alexion Pharmaceuticals has inked a deal centered on discovering and developing several RNAi therapies as the Massachusetts-based biotech continues to build out its pipeline.
- Dicerna Pharmaceuticals will receive $22 million upfront from Alexion, which will also make a $15 million equity investment in exchange for exclusive worldwide licenses to preclinical RNAi molecules directed at two complementary pathway targets. Milestone payments related to development and sales could add as much as $600 million to the deal's value.
- The companies entered into the deal Monday and announced the terms Wednesday. Alexion saw a modest 2% bump in its stock value upon market's open Wednesday, which coincided with the company reporting third quarter financial results. Shares in Dicerna were relatively unmoved on market open.
Alexion's had a healthy list of partners and acquisitions in 2018 as the company prioritized building out its pipeline. With Soliris (eculizumab) growing into a commercial success, Alexion is eyeing what comes next.
In total, four pipeline-expanding deals this year have brought Alexion a host of new drug candidates, while costing the company more than $1.2 billion upfront and possibly more than $1.4 billion in milestone payments down the line.
In April, Alexion announced it was shelling out $855 million for Wilson Therapeutics, a Swedish biotech developing a treatment for Wilson disease called WTX101. Shareholders approved the deal the following month, which Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson called a "key first step in rebuilding our pipeline."
Then in June, the company teamed up with Complement Pharma to develop a C6 complement inhibitor for neurodegenerative disorders. Alexion could pay up to 14 million euros (roughly $16 million) in milestone payments through Phase 1b development and also holds the option to buy Complement in the future.
Last month, Syntimmune was its next takeover target. Alexion paid $400 million upfront to acquire the company and its sole drug candidate, an antibody therapy with a lead indication for a rare hematology disease. Milestone payments consist of $370 million related to clinical trial progress, $350 million for regulatory approvals and $80 million tied to net sales.
The Dicerna deal, meanwhile, comes with immediate expenses, including a $22 million upfront payment and the purchase of about 836,000 Dicerna shares at $17.95 apiece.
In exchange, Alexion gets exclusive worldwide rights to two RNAi molecules with the option to acquire another two in the future. Dicerna will lead preclinical discovery and research, while Alexion will take the lead from Phase 1 studies and on.
"This collaboration provides the opportunity to continue building on our more than two decades of complement expertise using Dicerna's proprietary GalXC RNAi technology platform, which provides a potentially promising new way of inhibiting the uncontrolled complement activation that we know plays a significant role in many devastating diseases," Alexion R&D head John Orloff said in an Oct. 24 statement.
GalXC is Dicerna's RNAi technology platform, which focuses on the Dicer liver enzyme, the natural initiation point for RNAi in human cells, the company stated.
RNAi is now an even hotter space, following Alnylam Pharmaceuticals snagging a landmark Food and Drug Administration approval for Onpattro (patisiran) in August.
In April, Dicerna settled a 2015 legal complaint from Alnylam alleging misappropriation of confidential information. In the settlement, Dicerna paid $2 million upfront to Alnylam, and will pay $13 million more over the next four years and buy nearly one million shares in Alnylam, according to an SEC filing.
By clearing up a legal overhang, Dicerna opened itself up to reaching deals like this one with Alexion.
Additionally, Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson suggested the company is not done in the M&A space, even after reaching deals with Wilson, Complement, Syntimmune and now Dicerna.
"We continue to look for additional opportunities while advancing internal programs to position us for further long-term growth," Hantson said.