Allergan targets NASH with purchase of Tobira for up to $1.7 billion

Allergan entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Tobira Therapeutics under a deal potentially worth nearly $1.7 billion, gaining rights to the experimental drugs cenicriviroc and evogliptin for use in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the companies announced Tuesday. "The acquisition of Tobira is a strategic R&D investment within a white space area of our global gastroenterology franchise and an opportunity to advance the development of novel treatments for NASH," commented Allergan CEO Brent Saunders.

The transaction includes an upfront cash payment of $28.35 per share, representing a premium of nearly 500 percent over Tobira's closing price on September 19, as well as contingent value rights of up to $49.84 per share linked to certain development, regulatory and commercial milestones. Jefferies analysts suggested the high premium indicates there were multiple bidders for Tobira and also highlights the industry's interest in drugmakers developing NASH treatments.

According to the companies, cenicriviroc is a first-in-class oral inhibitor of CCR2 and CCR5 that is ready to advance into Phase III testing, while the oral DPP-4 inhibitor evogliptin is currently in early-stage development. The addition of both drugs bolster Allergan's pipeline with "two differentiated, complementary development programmes for the treatment of the multi-factorial elements of NASH, including inflammation, metabolic syndromes and fibrosis," the drugmakers said.

In July, Tobira released data from the mid-stage CENTAUR study showing that cenicriviroc had failed to meet the primary endpoint of improvement in disease activity versus placebo, although the therapy was linked to significant improvements in liver fibrosis with no worsening of NASH. At the time, Tobira said it planned to meet with regulators to discuss the design of a late-stage study, which it expected to begin next year. The FDA has granted cenicriviroc fast-track status for the treatment of NASH in patients with liver fibrosis. Meanwhile, Tobira recently initiated a Phase I study of cenicriviroc in combination with evogliptin for the treatment of NASH. 

Commenting on the acquisition, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Elizabeth Krutoholow stated "Allergan is really setting themselves up right," adding that "the deal is really structured smart, because they've done it so that they're paying a third now and two-thirds later if it's successful." The transaction follows Allergan's agreement earlier this month to purchase Vitae Pharmaceuticals for $21 per share in cash, or about $639 million, adding to its dermatology pipeline.

For additional analysis on Allergan's latest acquisition, see ViewPoints: Fibrosis data key to Allergan's eye-watering deal for Tobira.

FirstWord reports in this therapy area – KOL Insight Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): Find out how KOLs expect the market to evolve, which pipeline treatments are most promising, and which clinical trials will shape treatment decisions. Learn more.

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