Biogen Boosts Neuro Pipeline with $7.3B Reata Buy Amid Layoffs

Pictured: Biogen sign/The Boston Globe via Getty, John Tlumacki

Pictured: Biogen sign/The Boston Globe via Getty, John Tlumacki

Biogen is dropping $7.3 billion in cash to acquire Texas-based Reata Pharmaceuticals aimed at bolstering its neurological and rare disease businesses, the companies announced Friday.

Reata, whose shares soared 51% in premarket trading following the buyout news, recently won the FDA’s approval for Skyclarys (omaveloxolone), the first and so far only authorized treatment for Friedreich’s ataxia in the U.S. Reata is currently working on launching Skyclarys, which it will price at $370,000 per year.

Under the terms of the agreement, Biogen will pay a per-share price of $172.50, which represents an approximately 58% premium to Reata’s closing price Friday. Biogen will make the payment in cash, supplemented by the issuance of term debt. The companies expect to close the deal in the fourth quarter of 2023, though it must first pass the heightened scrutiny of regulators.

In recent months, the Federal Trade Commission has started looking more closely at mergers involving big industry players. In May 2023, the watchdog filed an administrative complaint blocking Amgen’s $26.4 billion acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics. Earlier this month, the FTC also started paying more attention to Pfizer’s $43 billion purchase of Seagen, and IQVIA’s merger with marketing firm Propel Media.

Biogen is making the multibillion-dollar move amid business difficulties. During its second-quarter earnings report Tuesday, the biotech announced a sweeping cost-reduction program that would reduce its headcount by around 1,000 jobs in an effort to save $1 billion in operating expenses by 2025. Of this savings, Biogen plans to reinvest around $300 million into product launches and R&D programs.

If the Reata acquisition goes through as planned, Skyclarys will join Biogen’s roster of neurological assets, which includes Spinraza (nusinersen), approved in 2016 as the first treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, and Qalsody (tofersen), which cleared regulatory hurdles earlier this year to become the fourth approved treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Skyclarys is an excellent complement to our global portfolio of treatments for neuromuscular and rare disease,” Biogen CEO Christopher Viehbacher said in a statement, adding that its expertise in these areas will accelerate the delivery of Skyclarys to patients worldwide.

With the acquisition, Biogen will also gain access to Reata’s developmental pipeline, which includes the Hsp90 modulator cemdomespib, being developed for diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, and the Nrf2 activators RTA 415 and RTA 417, both being assessed for their potential in diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.

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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