Sobi Expands Hematology Portfolio with $1.7B Buy of CTI

Pictured: Scientist holds vial of blood/BlindTurtle/iStock

Pictured: Scientist holds vial of blood/BlindTurtle/iStock

Swedish Orphan Biovitrum (Sobi) is adding to its hematology portfolio. The drugmaker announced Wednesday its plans to scoop up cash-strapped CTI BioPharma with a $1.7 billion tender offer for the Seattle-based company.

Despite a win for its JAK inhibitor in 2022, CTI ended the year with less than $80 million in cash. It was enough to sustain itself for 2023 but no further, according to its SEC filing, and the company did “not expect to achieve or sustain profitability for the foreseeable future.”

Sobi is sweeping in with a tender offer of $9.10 per CTI share, an 89% premium over Tuesday’s $4.82 closing price. The announcement pumped CTI’s stock up nearly 85% in Wednesday morning trading.

The buy brings in CTI’s latest drug, Vonjo, to expand Sobi’s hematologic portfolio. Vonjo was stamped with Accelerated Approval from the FDA in February 2022 for myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow cancer that disrupts the body's normal production of blood cells.

It's designed to avoid the safety pitfalls of other JAK inhibitors by targeting JAK2, IRAK1 and ACRV1, while sparing JAK1. Inhibition of JACK1 has been associated with immune dysfunction and lymphomas. A confirmatory trial is underway, per the approval status.

Vonjo is also in a Phase I/II study in a mTOR inhibitor combination with standard immune suppressive medications for the prevention of graft versus host disease.

The drug brought in close to $54 million for CTI in the nine months it was on the market. It’s a good fit for Sobi, as its top sellers are hematologic drugs. Elocta is used to treat and prevent bleeding in patients with Hemophilia A, and first quarter 2023 sales of the drug were over $117 million. The company noted Vonjo would be prescribed by the same specialists as Doptelet, Sobi’s low blood platelet drug.

Sobi’s next best-selling drug last year, Synagis, is a monthly injection of virus-blocking antibodies given to babies through RSV season. AstraZeneca divested rights for Synagis to Sobi in 2018. The drug brought in revenue of $343 million for Sobi in 2022.

AstraZeneca and partner Sanofi are now pursuing approval for their RSV preventative for newborns and infants. If approved, it could take a chunk out of Sobi’s market, as the first single-dose antibody for RSV. The FDA has a PDUFA date set for the third quarter of 2023, which would make it available in time for the 2023/2024 RSV season in the U.S.

Sobi’s purchase of CTI is one of many as the pharma M&A scene heats up in 2023. Merck is dropping $10.8 billion on immune-focused Prometheus Biosciences, adding the latter's mid-stage ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease investigational treatment to its portfolio.

Pfizer has the largest buy so far this year, with its $43 billion deal for Seattle’s Seagen, an ADC leader who courted a few suitors last year.  That transaction is expected to close later this year.

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at and on LinkedIn.  

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