Sanofi enters $3.7-billion deal to buy Principia Biopharma

Sanofi announced Monday a definitive agreement to acquire all of Principia Biopharma’s outstanding stock for $100 per share in cash, representing an equity value of around $3.7 billion, boosting the French drugmaker’s core research areas of autoimmune and allergic diseases. The deal, which represents a 10% premium to Principia’s closing share price on August 14 and has been unanimously approved by both companies’ boards, is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

In 2017, Sanofi gained rights to Principia’s experimental oral BTK inhibitor SAR442168 for multiple sclerosis as part of an agreement potentially worth more than $800 million, including an upfront payment of $40 million. Earlier this year, Sanofi reported that a Phase IIb study of SAR442168, also known as PRN2246, had met its primary endpoint, with the drug significantly reducing disease activity in patients with relapsing forms of MS, while the first patient was enrolled in a Phase III trial in June.

According to Sanofi, the purchase will make “commercialisation more efficient” by “eliminating future royalty payments.” Paul Hudson, chief executive of the French drugmaker, remarked “full ownership of our brain-penetrant BTK inhibitor ‘168 removes complexities for this priority development programme and simplifies future commercialisation.”

As part of the transaction, Sanofi will also gain rights to the oral BTK inhibitor rilzabrutinib, which is currently being evaluated in a Phase III programme for patients with moderate-to-severe pemphigus. “Through this acquisition, we will be able to expand and accelerate development of BTK inhibitors across multiple indications,” commented John Reed, global head of R&D at Sanofi, adding “both ‘168 and rilzabrutinib have ‘pipeline in a product’ potential, and we look forward to unlocking their full treatment benefits across an array of diseases.”

Sanofi noted that the purchase will allow the development programme for SAR442168 to be expanded into other central nervous system diseases and therapeutic areas, while rilzabrutinib has potential across a range of immunology and inflammation indications. The French company indicated that a Phase III programme for rilzabrutinib in immune thrombocytopenia is expected to be initiated by the end of 2020, while a Phase II programme is also ongoing for IgG4-related diseases.

Last month, sources suggested that Sanofi was eyeing acquisitions in the US, with one of the targets named as Principia, which analysts at Guggenheim said at the time would be a “good fit” for the French drugmaker. On Monday, Jefferies analysts remarked “we like the relatively low risk value accretion of this deal with longer-term optionality, that fits within the strategy of deploying firepower across numerous bolt-on deals.”



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