Roche Pays $8.3 Billion For Bay Area's InterMune, Pledges To Keep Employees

Roche Pays $8.3 Billion For Bay Area's InterMune, Inc., Pledges To Keep Employees Roche Pays $8.3 Billion For Bay Area's InterMune, Inc., Pledges To Keep Employees

August 25, 2014

By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Swiss-based Roche announced the acquisition of Brisbane, California biotech company InterMune, Inc. for a cash transaction totaling $8.3 billion. Based on a price of $74.00 per share, the merger has been approved by the boards of both companies.

InterMune focuses on developing and commercializing therapies in pulmonology and orphan fibrotic diseases. Their primary product, pirfenidone, is marketed in the European Union and Canada as Esbriet® for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). It received regulatory approval in the EU and Canada in 2011 and 2012, respectively. It is not approved for marketing in the U.S. According to the company website, they intended to resubmit the pirfenidone New Drug Application to the FDA in the third quarter of 2014.

Sales of Esbriet hit $35.7 million in the second quarter of 2014, although some analysts predict eventual sales to exceed $1 billion. In addition to pirfenidone, InterMune developing a pirfenidone analog, an LPA-1 inhibitor for specialty fibrotic diseases. Pirfenidone is also being evaluated for treatment of systemic sclerosis-related Interstitial Lung Disease (SSc-ILD).

The acquisition of InterMune would strength Roche’s portfolio of respiratory drugs, said Daniel O’Day, head of Roche’s pharmaceutical business. Known primarily for its cancer medications, Roche nonetheless sells Xolair, for asthma, and Pulmozyme, for cystic fibrosis. It also has lebrikizumab, a potential drug for severe asthma, in late-stage clinical trials.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis affects between 70,000 and 200,000 people in the U.S. and causes scarring in the lungs. The mortality rate for the disease is two to five years. There is no current treatment approved for IPF in the U.S., although steroids such as prednisone, azathioprine, and N-acetylcysteine have been used, as well as lung transplants.

At the moment, the only major competitor for treatment of IPF is Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals' nintedanib, which recently presented positive results in May 2014 of its two INPULSIS Phase III clinical trials. InterMune’s pirfenidone has a bit of a head start in the EU and Canada.

Under the merger deal, Roche will start a tender offer non later than August 29, 2014 and InterMune will file a statement of recommendation to shareholders. In a press release, Severin Schwan, Chief Executive Officer of Roche, said, “We are very pleased that we reached this agreement with InterMune. Our offer provides significant value to Intermune’s shareholders and this acquisition will complement Roche’s strengths in pulmonary therapy. We look forward to welcoming InterMune employees into the Roche Group and to making a difference for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a devastating disease.”

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