Ajinomoto Targets Gene Therapy Space with $620M Forge Acquisition

M&A_iStock, Tippapatt

Pictured: Two businessmen shaking hands after closing a deal/iStock, Tippapatt

Ajinomoto on Monday announced it is buying genetic medicine manufacturer Forge Biologics to deepen its biopharma services business and gain access to the gene therapy space, one of its priority next-generation strategic targets.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Ajinomoto will make an all-cash payment of $620 million for Forge, which in turn will become a fully consolidated subsidiary once the transaction is complete. The companies expect to close the deal by the end of the fourth quarter of 2023, pending regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Forge, founded in 2020, is both a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) and a clinical-stage biotech company. Its headquarters is a 200,000-square foot cGMP facility located in Columbus, Ohio, where it has more than 300 employees.

At the time of Monday’s acquisition announcement, Forge had a cash-free and debt-free enterprise value of $620 million—the deal’s exact price tag. However, by the time the buyout is executed, Forge’s equity value is expected to drop to an estimated $554 million, according to the press release.

Aside from its manufacturing business, Forge also has two candidates in its pipeline: the Phase I/II FBX-101, which is being trialed for infantile Krabbe disease, and the early-stage FBX-201, which is still in the proof-of-concept phase of development for rare and monogenic diseases. In February 2023, Forge reported positive data for FBX-101, demonstrating improvements in motor function and brain development.

Forge CMO Maria Escolar at the time called the results “encouraging” and said that the benefits “would not be anticipated in the absence of a systemic gene transfer.”

According to Yasuyuki Otake, general manager of Ajinomoto’s Bio-Pharma Services Department, the acquisition of Forge will be “transformative” for the company’s core growth area of healthcare.

“Forge brings Ajinomoto an entirely new capability that will vitally enhance our Bio-Pharma Services business,” Otake said in a statement.

Monday’s buyout also continues the flurry of M&A activity in the biopharma industry. Last month, Roche scooped up Roivant subsidiary Televant Holdings for $7.1 billion, winning the anti-TL1A antibody RVT-3101 in the process, which is being developed for inflammatory bowel diseases. A few weeks earlier, BMS made its $4.8 billion play for Mirati Therapeutics and a bid to deepen its oncology franchise.

At around the same time, AbbVie bought Mitokinin for $110 million, Eli Lilly dropped $1.4 billion for Point Biopharma and Kyowa Kirin acquired gene therapy developer Orchard Therapeutics for $387 million.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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