Sanofi snaps up Inhibrx and its rare disease drug for $2.2bn

Sanofi snaps up Inhibrx and its rare disease drug for $2.2bn

A slew of pharma mergers and acquisitions in the first month of 2024 has continued with a $2.2 billion play by Sanofi for Inhibrx and its clinical-stage drug candidate for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD).

France’s Sanofi – a major player in the rare disease category – is offering $30 per share for La Jolla, California-based Inhibrx, which had a closing price of just over $33 yesterday.

The cash deal values the company at $1.7 billion, and Sanofi is also promising a contingent value right (CVR) payment of $5 per share tied to the achievement of a “regulatory milestone” for AATD therapy INBRX-101.

It will also pay off the biotech’s debt, and take a stake in a new publicly-traded spin-off company, called Inhibrx Biosciences, which will take all its other drug programmes forwards, including three cancer immunotherapies in clinical development. The new Inhibrx will also start with $200 million in funding from the French drugmaker.

AATD is an inherited disorder whose primary consequence is life-threatening pulmonary emphysema, resulting in irreversible destruction of the tissues supporting the function of the lungs and causing severe shortness of breath and wheeze.

Patients with AATD typically present between the ages of 20 and 50 and have both a significantly reduced quality of life and a reduced life expectancy.

INBRX-101 is a recombinant human AAT-Fc fusion protein designed to replace the enzyme that is deficient in AATD and offer less frequent dosing than current therapies for the disease, based on alpha-1 antitrypsin protein from the plasma of healthy donors.

Clinical testing suggests that Inhibrx’s drug could require dosing once every three or four weeks, compared to weekly with plasma-derived products, and seems to be more effective at keeping levels of the protein at normal levels in between doses.

The hope is that extended and more reliable enzyme replacement could reduce or even eliminate the lung decline seen with AATD and significantly improve patient quality of life.

“The addition of INBRX-101 as a high potential asset to our rare disease portfolio reinforces our strategy to commit to differentiated and potential best-in-class products,” said Houman Ashrafian, Sanofi’s head of R&D.

“With our expertise in rare diseases and growing presence in immune-mediated respiratory conditions, INBRX-101 will complement our approach to deploy R&D efforts in key areas of focus and address the needs of the underserved AATD patients and communities,” he added.

The bolt-on deal comes as Sanofi has pledged to boost R&D investment, reduce costs, and exit the consumer health market as it moves towards a target of generating €10 billion in annual sales from new products by the end of the decade.

It also follows a busy period of pharma M&A in recent weeks, with deals including a $1.4 billion takeover of respiratory disease specialist Aiolos by GSK, Johnson & Johnson’s $2 billion play for Californian antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) specialist Ambrx, MSD’s purchase of Harpoon Therapeutics and its T-cell engager pipeline for $680 million, and a trio of deals for Novartis.

Sanofi said it expects the deal to close in the second quarter of the year, subject to approval by Inhibrx shareholders and the customary regulatory scrutiny.

23 January, 2024