- GSK on Tuesday said it will pay $2 billion to acquire Bellus Health, a Canada-based developer of an experimental drug for chronic cough that’s in late-stage clinical trials.
- Deal terms value each Bellus share at $14.75, roughly double their closing price on Monday. The companies expect the acquisition will close in the third quarter, and Bellus’ board has unanimously voted in its favor.
- Bellus’ drug, called camlipixant, is currently being tested in two Phase 3 studies of people with persistent cough that either doesn’t have a clear cause or can’t be relieved by treatment for an underlying condition. Results are expected in late 2024 and in 2025, respectively.
With the Bellus deal, GSK will gain a drug that could compete with a similar treatment being developed by Merck & Co. Both medicines are designed to work by targeting a receptor known as P2X3, and could become the first therapies for refractory chronic cough.
Yet both have hit hurdles in their development. Merck’s drug, gefapixant, was rejected by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2022 over questions related to how the treatment’s effectiveness was measured. In February 2023, the pharmaceutical company said it was planning to soon submit data responding to the FDA’s questions.
Bellus’ drug, meanwhile, previously fell short of its goal in a Phase 2 study in July 2020. Nearly 18 months later, the company rebounded with positive results from another mid-stage trial that set the stage for the Phase 3 program that’s now underway.
“Camlipixant, a novel, highly selective P2X3 antagonist, has the potential to be a best-in-class treatment with significant sales potential,” Luke Miels, GSK’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement on the deal. “This proposed acquisition complements our portfolio of specialty medicines and builds on our expertise in respiratory therapies.”
Refractory chronic cough can significantly impact the lives of affected individuals, causing depression, urinary incontinence, pain, rib fractures and loss of sleep. People who have the condition can experience hundreds of coughs each day for weeks on end.
GSK said it expects camlipixant to win regulatory approval and launch in 2026. The deal could boost the company’s earnings per share beginning in 2027.
Bellus currently holds about $337 million in cash and investments that GSK will also gain through its acquisition.
For GSK, the buyout adds to a string of dealmaking activity dating back to last year. The British drugmaker paid $1.9 billion to acquire vaccine developer Affinivax in May 2022, and $2.1 billion to purchase cancer drugmaker Sierra Oncology one month earlier.