Commercial Biogen Inks $1.15B Deal to Acquire HI-Bio

Biogen Inks $1.15B Deal to Acquire HI-Bio


Biogen is investing $1.15 billion in Chris Viehbacher’s strategy to diversify the company. The company has entered into a contract, including an upfront payment, to acquire Human Immunology Biosciences (HI-Bio), a biotechnology company in the process of developing an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody into phase 3 for various uncommon immune-mediated diseases.

As soon as Viehbacher assumed the role of CEO of the Big Biotech company, he saw that the company’s concentration on neuroscience presented a challenge. Viehbacher believed that Biogen had an excessively narrow focus for a firm of its scale, especially problematic given its pipeline bias toward high-risk neuroscience studies. An intention to expand into other disciplines, notably immunology, was outlined as a response to this issue.

This strategy took flight on Wednesday when Biogen announced its agreement to acquire HI-Bio for an initial payment of $1.15 billion and potential milestone rewards of up to $650 million. Biogen will gain control over the anti-CD38 antibody felzartamab as a result of the acquisition.

Priya Singhal, the firm’s head of development, stated, “We believe this late-stage asset, which has demonstrated impact on key biomarkers and clinical endpoints in three renal diseases with serious unmet needs, is a strategic addition to the Biogen portfolio as we continue to augment our pipeline and build on our expertise in immunology.”

HI-Bio discovered that felzartamab’s ability to selectively decrease CD38-positive cells could be used to treat a number of immune-mediated diseases. The biotechnology company possesses phase 2 data in primary membranous nephropathy (PMN) and antibody-mediated rejection (AMR), with mid-stage research in IgA nephropathy (IgAN) currently underway.

Plans are in place for the biotech company to conduct phase 3 studies in AMR, PMN, and IgAN. Biogen has the opportunity to significantly expand its footprint in immunology through a single pipeline-in-a-product, assuming the molecule proves successful in clinical trials.

The program’s broad scope, associated with the potential to target additional immune-mediated disorders like lupus, makes this opportunity compelling.

Biogen intends to utilize its expertise in rare diseases to both develop and market the antibody. The goal is to retain the knowledge and skills of HI-Bio and establish a team in the Bay Area specializing in immune-mediated disorders. As part of the acquisition, Biogen is also acquiring a phase 1 anti-C5aR1 antibody, alongside felzartamab, which holds potential in complement-mediated disorders.

Felzartamab’s journey to its current stage has been complex. MorphoSys developed the antibody to compete with Darzalex, a multiple myeloma medication made by Genmab and distributed by Johnson & Johnson. Celgene agreed to purchase the asset in 2013 but withdrew from the agreement in 2015. As of 2022, HI-Bio has licensed the antibody to countries outside China.

As part of the deal, MorphoSys gained HI-Bio stock, allowing it to conclude the year with a 12% ownership in the company. The sale of the stock might benefit Novartis, the company that acquired MorphoSys.

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