Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline on Tuesday announced a deal to buy Canadian biotech Bellus Health for $2 billion, betting big on the firm’s cough medicine as it moves to shore up its slender drug pipeline ahead of the expected loss of exclusivity on its aging bestsellers.
GSK said it will pay $14.75 per share for Bellus in cash, more than double the biotech’s closing share price on Monday.
The deal will strengthen GSK’s pipeline of experimental drugs, the firm said, notably giving it access to an experimental cough medicine Bellus is developing.
The drug, camlipixant, is undergoing late-stage clinical trials and has shown promise against refractory chronic cough, a persistent and sometimes debilitating condition GSK said affects some 6 million people across the U.S. and EU.
There are no approved medicines to treat the condition in the U.S. or EU and Luke Miels, GSK’s chief commercial officer, said the drug could become “a best-in-class treatment” and has “significant sales potential.”
Bellus chief executive Roberto Bellini said GSK is the ideal company to “rapidly” bring camlipixant to market, adding that the acquisition “validates the hard work and dedication” of Bellus employees in developing the drug.
The deal is backed by Bellus’ board and, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close in the third quarter of 2023 or earlier, GSK said.
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GSK said camlipixant is expected to receive regulatory approval and launch in 2026. The company said it anticipates the deal will increase its earnings per share from 2027, the first full year it expects to sell camlipixant. The drug “has the potential to deliver significant sales through 2031 and beyond,” GSK added.
GSK shares were largely unchanged on Tuesday and were down 0.42% in London during morning trading.
Rather than plowing vast sums of money into their own research and development, many big pharma firms now replenish their drug pipelines through mergers and acquisitions. GSK is far from alone and rivals including Pfizer and Merck have inked deals worth billions in recent months. GSK’s purchase of Bellus follows the spin out of its consumer health business Haleon last year, as well as deals to acquire Affinivax and Sierra Oncology, which respectively focus on vaccines and cancer treatments. The company is facing particular pressure to replenish its pipeline ahead of the expected loss of exclusivity of its blockbuster HIV drug dolutegravir at the end of the decade, which would open it up to competition and might hit profits.
28 million. That’s how many people are estimated to suffer from chronic coughing globally, GSK said. Of these, the company said 10 million suffer from refractory chronic cough, 6 million of whom are based in the EU and the U.S., where there is no approved treatment. Refractory chronic cough is defined as a persistent cough lasting more than eight weeks that is unexplained or doesn’t respond to treatment for any underlying condition.