Big M&A: Alexion in $930m Achillion buy, UCB bids $2.1bn for Ra

In a big week for Big Pharma M&A, Alexion has agreed to buy Achillion and UCB will add a late-stage antibody through its acquisition of Ra Pharmaceuticals.

BPI Staff

October 16, 2019

3 Min Read
Big M&A: Alexion in $930m Achillion buy, UCB bids $2.1bn for Ra
Image: iStock/SB

In a big week for Big Pharma M&A, Alexion has agreed to buy Factor D inhibitor developer Achillion and UCB will add a late-stage FcRn targeting antibody through its acquisition of Ra Pharmaceuticals.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals, which itself has been in the news recently as a potential target for M&A-hungry Amgen, announced today it has agreed to buy clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Achillion Pharmaceuticals for approximately $930 million (€842 million).

The deal adds oral small molecule Factor D inhibitors to treat people with complement alternative pathway-mediated rare diseases, to Alexion’s pipeline, including two clinical-stage candidates danicopan (ACH-4471) and ACH-5228 in Phase II and I, respectively.


Image: iStock/SB

“Alexion has demonstrated the transformative impact that inhibiting C5 can have on multiple rare and devastating diseases. However, we believe this is just the beginning of what’s possible with complement inhibition,” said Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson.

“Targeting a different part of the complement system – the alternative pathway – by inhibiting Factor D production addresses uncontrolled complement activation further upstream in the complement cascade, and importantly, leaves the rest of the complement system intact, which is critical in maintaining the body’s ability to fight infection.”

Alexion has traditionally focused on rare diseases and its top selling product is the monoclonal antibody Soliris (eculizumab), approved to treat orphan diseases atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS).

The addition of Achillion is the latest move by Alexion to expand its pipeline.

In September 2018, the firm acquired early-phase biotech Syntimmune for an upfront payment of $400 million, adding SYNT001, a humanized monoclonal antibody candidate that inhibits the interaction of FcRn with Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgG immune complexes.

Months later in November 2018, Alexion Pharmaceuticals acquired Syntimmune, adding another clinical stage humanized monoclonal antibody that inhibits the interaction of neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), in a deal worth up to $1.2 billion.

Ra for UCB

And in other Big Biopharma M&A news, Belgian firm UCB is set to acquire late-phase peptide developer Ra Pharma for approximately $2.1 billion.

“Upon closing, the acquisition will add to our strong internal growth opportunities – six potential product launches in the next five years, strengthening our neurology and immunology franchises with late and early-stage pipeline projects,” said UCB CEO Jean-Christophe Tellier.

“In addition, the combination will provide us with the opportunity to become a leader in treating people living with myasthenia gravis, an auto-antibody mediated neurological orphan disease with high unmet medical need, as well as adding a highly productive technology platform to our innovation engine.”

Lead candidate Zilucoplan is a peptic C5 inhibitor, which – combined with UCB’s anti-FcRn rozanolixizumab – could create an opportunity to treat myasthenia gravis and several other rare diseases in neurology and immunology.

UCB also gains access to the synthetic macrocyclic peptide platform ExtremeDiversity, which is based on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) display. “It has the potential to augment UCB’s drug discovery capabilities and provide access to Ra Pharma’s proven expertise and talent in this area,” UCB said.

You May Also Like