Alexion Pharmaceuticals entered into a definitive merger agreement to acquire Portola Pharmaceuticals for $18 per share in cash, gaining the Factor Xa inhibitor reversal agent Andexxa/Ondexxya (andexanet alfa), the companies announced Tuesday. The purchase price represents a premium of 132% to Portola's closing stock price on May 4, giving the company a value of around $1.4 billion.
"The acquisition of Portola represents an important next step in our strategy to diversify beyond C5," remarked Alexion CEO Ludwig Hantson, adding "we believe Andexxa has the potential to become the global standard of care for patients who experience life-threatening bleeds while taking Factor Xa inhibitors." He indicated that Alexion plans to use its existing "strong" relationships with hospitals for Soliris (eculizumab) and Ultomiris (ravulizumab-cwvz) as a means to expand access to Andexxa. "We have those strong networks in the hospital, and we have a capability, as we've shown over the years, of market access," said Hantson.
Still, some industry observers are cautious about the deal, pointing to delayed visits to the doctor and canceled elective procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stifel analyst Paul Matteis suggested that "accelerating the trajectory of Andexxa will truly be a 'show me story,' and one that, in near term, could be at least modestly leveraged to the evolution of COVID-19."
Andexxa was cleared in the US in 2018, as well as in Europe last year under the name Ondexxya, to reverse anticoagulation due to life-threatening or uncontrolled bleeding following treatment with Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto (rivaroxaban) or Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer's Eliquis (apixaban). Portola CEO Scott Garland noted that Andexxa/Ondexxya, which brought in sales of $111.5 million last year, reverses the pharmacologic effect of Xarelto and Eliquis within two minutes, reducing anti-Factor Xa activity by 92%.
Portola also markets the Factor Xa inhibitor Bevyxxa (betrixaban) for the prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism in certain adults at risk for thromboembolic complications. In addition, the company is developing the SYK/JAK inhibitor cerdulatinib to treat haematologic cancers. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of Alexion and Portola, is expected to close in the third quarter.
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