- Rare disease drugmaker Sobi is restructuring its business to prioritize late-stage development of treatments for blood and immune disorders.
- The restructuring, announced Wednesday, came almost simultaneously with the news that Sobi had acquired the monoclonal antibody emapalumab, which received U.S. approval in November and is sold under the brand name Gamifant. Sobi already held an exclusive global license to Gamifant through a July 2018 deal with Novimmune, but now owns the drug outright — along with all intellectual property, patent rights, data and know-how related to it.
- By reorganizing its R&D, Sobi expects to save 200 million to 300 million Swedish krona, or about $21 million to $31 million, in 2020, money that will then go toward late-stage development. The reorganization will carry costs too: about 100 million to 200 Swedish krona in 2019, by the company's estimates.
Sobi spent much of the last year building out its late-stage and commercial operations. In addition to the July agreement with Novimmune, the Swedish pharma inked a deal with AstraZeneca in November that gave it U.S. rights to two medicines for lower respiratory tract infections caused by respiratory syncytial virus.
One of the medicines, Synagis (palivizumab), gained Food and Drug Administration approval in 1998. With the added help from Synagis and Gamifant, Sobi's immunology business brought in 1.1 billion Swedish krona for the first quarter, nearly quadruple what it did during the same period in 2018.
The company also has businesses in hemophilia and specialty care.
While the former is growing by a double-digit percentage, it is also completely reliant on collaboration and rights deals with the now Sanofi-owned Bioverativ. The latter, meanwhile, has become relatively stagnant.
Those dynamics are fueling Sobi's decision to route more investment — either through internal development or through acquisitions — toward late-stage hematology and immunology assets. Along with its other announcements, the company revealed on Wednesday plans to create two "centers of excellence." The centers will be located in Sweden and Switzerland and be devoted to hematology and immunology, respectively.
With the focus on more advanced candidates, Sobi intends to stop early research and partnered projects outside of its core areas. It will therefore divest SOBI006, a preclinical antagonist of interleukin 1, and SOBI003, an experimental treatment for a rare metabolic condition known as mucopolysaccharidosis type III.
Sobi previously committed 400 million Swiss francs in its Gamifant licensing pact. The new agreement with Novimmune adds another 115 million Swiss francs, for a total 515 million Swiss francs consideration.
The companies foresee their deal, which has Sobi acquiring a newly formed company from Novimmune that holds Gamifant, which treats a rare immune disorder, and related assets, completing in the third quarter. Deal terms also hand Sobi options to shared financial rights to the investigational immuno-oncology drugs NI-1701 and NI-1801.
Sobi shares were down slightly as the Stockholm stock market opened Wednesday, but climbed throughout the day to trade up nearly 4%.