Novo Nordisk Shells Out $1.1B for Forma, Sickle Cell Drug

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Novo Nordisk has entered into an agreement to acquire Forma Therapeutics for $1.1 billion, the company announced Thursday.

The deal includes Forma’s lead development candidate, etavopivat. The drug is being assessed in the Phase II GLADIOLUS trial in patients with transfusion-dependent sickle cell disease (SCD) and thalassemia and in the Phase II/III HIBISCUS trial in SCD. Etavopivat is an oral, once-daily, selective pyruvate kinase-R (PKR) activator. It is being developed for anemia and red blood cell health in SCD patients.

"By adding Forma’s differentiated approach to address unmet needs for patients, we are taking a step forward in enhancing our sickle cell disease pipeline," said Ludovic Helfgott, EVP and head of rare disease at Novo Nordisk, in a statement.

Novo Nordisk is better known for its diabetes and obesity products, including Tresiba, Rybelsus, Victoza and Ozempic. It also has marketed products for hemophilia, such as NovoSeven (recombinant factor VIIa), Esperoct (turoctocog alfa pegol, N8-GP) and NovoThirteen (recombinant factor XIII).

Frank D. Lee, president and CEO of Forma, called the announcement "an exciting milestone". 

“Novo Nordisk will partner closely with the sickle cell community to amplify our impact for patients around the world who urgently need new treatment options," he said in a statement. 

Forma’s board has unanimously approved the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. 

In an email to BioSpace, Novo Nordisk said, "Novo Nordisk has a strong heritage and commitment of 40 years in rare blood disorders, initially within hemophilia and expanding to other rare blood disorders. The acquisition of Forma Therapeutics, including its lead candidate etavopivat, enriches and accelerates the development of Novo Nordisk's preclinical and clinical pipeline in haemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia."

The deal is for $20 per share in cash, a total equity value of $1.1 billion. This amounts to a 92% premium for Forma’s volume-weighted average price per share over the last 30 days ending August 31.

Forma also has programs underway in prostate cancer, acute myeloid leukemia and glioma and preclinical programs in hematological diseases and cancer. 

On August 2, Forma signed an exclusive, worldwide license deal with Rigel Pharmaceuticals for olutasidenib for relapsed or refractory acute myeloid leukemia. The FDA has accepted Forma’s New Drug Application for the drug with a target action date of February 15, 2023. 

Rigel paid Forma $2 million upfront. Forma is eligible for another $17.5 million based on various milestone payments, as well as future development and commercial milestones of $215.5 million and tiered royalties in the low-teens to mid-thirties.

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