Novo Nordisk Acquires Emisphere Tech in $1.8 Billion Deal

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Denmark’s Novo Nordisk is acquiring New Jersey-based Emisphere Technologies in a deal worth about $1.8 billion. Novo Nordisk specializes in diabetes-related therapeutics. Emisphere is a drug delivery company, with products such as Eligen B12, the first and only once-daily oral non-prescription medical food to normalize B12 levels without injection.

Under the terms of the deal, Novo Nordisk is picking up all outstanding Emisphere shares for $1.35 billion. It is also picking up related Eligen SNAC royalty stream obligations owed to MHR Fund Management, Emisphere’s largest shareholder, for $450 million. That brings the total deal price to $1.8 billion.

Eligen SNAC allows oral formulations of otherwise injected drugs. Novo Nordisk and Emisphere have been partnered since 2007. Novo Nordisk uses the Eligen SNAC for the oral formulation of Rybelsus (semaglutide), its GLP-1 receptor agonist for type 2 diabetes. Now it’ll have full access to the Eligen SNAC technology platform without future royalty obligations, which will allow it to move further into oral biologics.

“I don’t think we will ever completely get rid of the needles,” Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo Nordisk’s chief scientific officer, told Reuters. “We have been making injection drugs for a hundred years, but we just have to admit that if we want patients to get treatment quickly in order to optimize the long-term course of the illness, then it requires tablets if possible.”

The timing is good, as Novo Nordisk’s Rybelsus, a first-of-its-kind non-injectable diabetes pill was recently approved by regulators in the U.S., European Union and several Asian countries.

Novo Nordisk reported its third-quarter financials on October 30, citing a sales increase of 6% in Danish kroner and 7% at CER to $14.3 billion (U.S.). The Diabetes and Obesity care sales increased by 5% to $12.1 billion (U.S.), driven by GLP-1 sales, reflecting Ozempic and the Rybelsus launch.

“We are very satisfied with the performance in the first nine months of 2020 despite the negative impacts from COVID-19,” said Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, president and chief executive officer of Novo Nordisk. “More patients use our GLP-1 treatments, and our diabetes market leadership continues to expand. Within R&D, an important milestone was reached with the encouraging results from the Phase IIb trial in cardiovascular diseases with ziltivekimab, the lead candidate from Corvidia Therapeutics that was acquired this year.”

Novo Nordisk indicated it will make “substantial investments” into the Eligen SNAC platform and has already assigned about 100 researchers at its Copenhagen headquarters to work on improving it.

“By further developing the technology,” Thomsen said, “we hope in the future to produce the medicine cheaper than we do now, thus allowing us to penetrate more markets and give broader access to diabetes drugs.”

It was only three days ago that Novo Nordisk’s Saxenda (liraglutide) for obesity management received a recommendation from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The drug will be prescribed for adults with non-diabetic high blood sugar who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35kg per m2 with a high risk of cardiovascular disease-related to risk factors that include high blood pressure or high cholesterol. These are pre-filled injection pens.

Earlier, NICE had not been able to recommend it due to cost-effectiveness estimates that were “highly uncertain” and possibly much higher than what the NICE classifies as a cost-effective use of NHS resources.

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