Nestle sells underperforming peanut allergy drug
Almost exactly three years after agreeing on a $2.6 billion deal to acquire Aimmune Therapeutics and its peanut allergy therapy Palforzia, food group Nestle has sold off the business.
This morning Nestle confirmed it has divested Palforzia to rival allergy therapy developer Stallergenes Greer, but did not disclose the amount paid for the business. It started a review of the unit last November, indicating that it was looking for an exit.
"We are confident that Stallergenes Greer will take Palforzia forward and ensure this unique treatment supports patients around the world," commented Greg Behar, chief executive of Nestle Health Science.
"At the same time, the divestiture allows Nestle Health Science to focus on its core strengths and key growth drivers," he added.
Nestle acquired Aimmune with high hopes that Palforzia would generate blockbuster sales as the first FDA-approved therapy for peanut allergy.
The oral immunotherapy – cleared by the US regulator in 2020 for use in children aged four to 17 – involves consuming small amounts of peanut protein, gradually increasing over time, in order to stimulate tolerance. Peanut allergies affect about one million children in the US, and in serious cases can lead to anaphylactic shock and death.
Palforzia does not offer a cure, but can reduce the severity of reactions, making them less likely to be life-threatening.
Take-up has been modest, however, held up by the need for visits to clinics every two weeks in order to receive the therapy under medical supervision, as well as the burden on doctors who had to monitor patients for at least an hour after dosing, but are forbidden by US law to receive compensation from the company for the time spent.
In an update to investors last year, Nestle group's chief executive, Marck Schneider, said that - despite unmet medical need and lots of patient interest - Palforzia would always be a niche product and therefore "not the right fit for us."
In Stallergenes Greer, Palforzia has an owner with a dedicated focus on diagnosing and treating allergies, with its own range of products used to treat allergies, mainly bespoke formulations given on a named patient basis.
The company's chief executive, Michele Antonelli, said that buying Palforzia is a "significant milestone" for the company, making it the first allergen immunotherapy (AIT) company to offer both respiratory and food allergy treatments.
The deal marks a further retreat by Nestle from the pharma category, an area in which it had been trying to build in recent years, and reinforces its narrower focus on clinical nutrition. In 2019, it also sold off dermatology brand Galderma, which it bought in 2014 for $3.6 billion.
Nestle is in line to receive milestone payments based on Palforzia's future performance, as well as royalties on sales.