After losing out on two big deals, Sanofi to buy Bioverativ for $11.6bn

French pharma company Sanofi

Sanofi is to buy Bioverativ, the haemophilia and rare blood disorder specialist firm, for $11.6 billion.

The Paris-headquartered pharma company has famously missed out on some big acquisitions in recent years, but it looks set to be 'third time lucky' with Bioverativ.

US-based Bioverativ markets haemophilia drugs Eloctate and Alprolix in partnership with Stockholm-based Sobi.

Sanofi missed out on cancer biotech Medivation when Pfizer outbid it with a $16 billion takeover in 2016.

Then Switzerland’s Actelion decided to go with Johnson & Johnson in a $30 billion merger after Sanofi reneged on its first bid and tried to drive the price down.

Sanofi is already heavily involved into research into haemophilia – at the end of the year the FDA lifted a clinical hold on studies involving fitusiran, an RNA interference drug it is developing in partnership with Alnylam.

Sanofi’s shares ticked down on the news, however, as there was a suggestion that it had overpaid after its failure to capture Medivation and Actelion.

Some investors also believe that Biovertiv's haemophilia treatments are about to be eclipsed by newer and more effective treatments. These include Alnylam's drug, but also Roche's Hemlibra and potentially curative gene therapies.

Sanofi said in a statement confirming the merger, and reaffirming its belief in Bioverativ's portfolio: “Sanofi believes factor replacement therapy will remain the standard of care in haemophilia for many years due to excellent safety and its increasingly superior long-acting profile.”

Roche’s recently-approved Hemlibra looks set to become a major contender in this market in the coming years, but Sanofi says patients already on factor replacement therapies will prefer to stay on their tried-and-tested products rather than gamble on a new treatment.

The French pharma also noted that Bioverativ has a pipeline including a phase 3 drug for cold agglutinin disease, and early stage research collaborations in haemophilia, and other rare blood disorders, including sickle cell disease and a cell therapy collaboration with Sangomo Therapeutics in beta thalassemia.

It seems that big pharma is targeting blood disorder products, after Gilead last year bought Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion to get its blood cancer CAR-T therapy and Novo Nordisk has unsuccessfully bid for Belgium’s Ablynx and its late-pipeline rare disorder drug.

Through its $32 billion acquisition of Baxalta in 2016 Shire increased its presence in the market for blood disorder products, and was itself the subject of takeover speculation before Christmas.