Novartis is looking to further boost its investment in gene therapies announcing the US$8.7 billion acquisition of US-based AveXis.
The company's lead product candidate is AVXS-101, a gene therapy currently in development for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, Type 1, the leading genetic cause of infant mortality, and SMA Types 2 and 3.
The first registered treatment for SMA, Biogen's SPINRAZA (nusinersen), is registered in Australia but is yet to secure reimbursement.
AveXis also has gene therapies in development for the treatment of neurological diseases, including Rett syndrome and a genetic form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis caused by mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene.
Novartis announced the acquisition having recently confirmed the US$13 billion sale of its stake in the consumer health joint venture with GSK. The company said it will use the proceeds of that sale to fund the acquisition of AveXis.
The sale price of US$218 per share represents a 72 percent premium to AveXis’s 30-day volume-weighted average stock price.
According to Novartis CEO, Vas Narasimhan, "The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition.
"The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience. We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas. We look forward on the closing of the deal to a smooth transition for AveXis employees and welcoming them to Novartis."
“The commitment, drive and expertise of the entire AveXis team has created significant stockholder value, and we are pleased that Novartis recognizes that value in the potential of AVXS-101, our first in class manufacturing capabilities and our gene therapy pipeline, all of which serve to transform the lives of people devastated by rare and life threatening neurological diseases such as SMA, Rett syndrome and genetic ALS,” said Sean Nolan, president and CEO of AveXis. “With worldwide reach and extensive resources, Novartis should expedite our shared vision of bringing gene therapy to these patient communities across the globe as quickly and safely as possible.”