Vertex Buys Alpine for $4.9B to Bolster Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disease Pipeline

Vertex Pharma_iStock, hapabapa

Pictured: Facade of Vertex Pharmaceuticals' office in Boston/iStock, hapabapa

Vertex Pharmaceuticals on Wednesday scooped up clinical-stage immunotherapy company Alpine Immune Sciences for $4.9 billion in cash in the largest acquisition of 2024, targeting autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

At $65 per share, Vertex is paying an approximately 67% premium to Alpine’s closing price on Tuesday, according to Reuters. The deal, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024, pending antitrust clearance, shareholder approval and other customary conditions.

Vertex CEO Reshma Kewalramani in a statement said that Alpine is a “compelling strategic fit” for the Boston-based pharma, adding that the buyout will help the company achieve its “ambition of using scientific innovation to create transformative medicines targeting serious diseases with high unmet needs in specialty markets.”

The acquisition’s centerpiece is Alpine’s lead asset povetacicept, a dual antagonist of the BAFF and APRIL cytokines, both of which play crucial roles in the activation, differentiation and survival of B-cells. In preclinical studies, povetacicept showed strong activity against its two targets, pointing to its potential to improve outcomes in patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, according to Alpine’s website.

Povetacicept is currently in a Phase II study in IgA nephropathy (IgAN), for which it has shown best-in-class potential, according to Vertex.

Alpine on Wednesday released updated clinical data for povetacicept, demonstrating that the drug candidate reduced the urine protein-to-creatinine ratio by 64.1% in 41 patients at 36 weeks. This effect translated to a “clinically meaningful improvement in proteinuria,” the biotech, adding that treated patients also showed stable renal function.

All patients with available data at 36 weeks also showed resolution of hematuria, while 67% reached disease remission. Povetacicept is set to enter Phase III assessments later this year.

IgAN is a progressive autoimmune disease that afflicts the kidneys and ultimately leads to end-stage renal disease. Travere Therapeutics in February 2023 won the FDA’s accelerated approval for the first non-immunosuppressive IgAN treatment for Filspari (sparsentan). The biotech however announced in September 2023 that its confirmatory phase III trial failed one of its key endpoints.

Also competing in the IgAN space is Novartis, which in October 2023 reported that its endothelin A receptor blocker atrasentan aced its Phase III ALIGN study. Novartis obtained atrasentan from its $3.2 billion acquisition of Chinook Therapeutics in June 2023.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Reach out to him on LinkedIn or email him at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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