Horizon will benefit from Viela Bio’s Uplizna, and additional investigational drug candidates VIB4920, VIB7734, and VIB1116


Horizon Therapeutics to acquire Viela Bio. (Credit: Adam Radosavljevic from Pixabay.)

Ireland-based biopharmaceutical firm Horizon Therapeutics has reached an agreement to acquire Maryland-based biotechnology firm Viela Bio.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Horizon will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Viela Bio common stock at a price of $53 per share in cash.

According to the company, the purchase price represents a fully diluted equity value of around $3.05bn, or $2.67bn net of Viela’s cash and cash equivalents.

Horizon intends to finance the transaction through $1.3bn of external debt along with the available cash. It also has financing commitments from Citigroup Global Markets and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding.

Horizon chairman, president and chief executive officer Tim Walbert said: “This acquisition represents a significant step forward in advancing our strategy – to expand our pipeline in order to accelerate our growth over the long term.

“Adding Viela’s research and clinical development capabilities along with its deep, mid-stage biologics pipeline to our seasoned R&D and commercial teams, advances our transformation to an innovation-driven biotech company where we will build on the success of TEPEZZA and KRYSTEXXA to bolster our long-term growth trajectory.

“We intend to maximize the full potential of Viela’s pipeline, including the pursuit of additional future indications.”

With the acquisition, Horizon would add Uplizna (inebilizumab-cdon), an FDA approved B-cell-depleting humanised monoclonal antibody indicated for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), to its commercial rare disease medicine portfolio.

NMOSD is a rare, severe, autoimmune disease that attacks the optic nerve, spinal cord and brain stem, causing loss of vision and paralysis in AQP4 antibody positive adults.

Also, Horizon is anticipated to benefit from Viela Bio’s additional investigational drug candidates VIB4920, VIB7734, and VIB1116.

AstraZeneca to divest 26.7% stake in Viela Bio

AstraZeneca has agreed to divest its 26.7% stake in Viela Bio, as part of the proposed acquisition by Horizon, subject to certain limited exceptions.

The UK drugmaker is expected to receive cash proceeds and profit of around $760 to $780m upon closing for the sale, which is expected to be closed by the end of Q1 2021.

Viela Bio chairman and chief executive officer Bing Yao said: “We are pleased that Horizon recognizes the value of our robust R&D pipeline, our commercial medicine UPLIZNA, which is an important treatment option for patients with NMOSD, and our talented team.

“We believe that the combined pipeline, including the pursuit of additional potential indications, has the potential to yield innovative new medicines to treat autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases.

“Our collective R&D expertise coupled with Horizon’s commercial capabilities, has the potential to provide benefit to more patients with high unmet treatment needs.”

Horizon is engaged in researching, developing, and commercialising medicines that address critical needs for people impacted by rare and rheumatic diseases. Its portfolio is focused on treatments for thyroid eye disease (TED), gout, rare diseases, and inflammatory diseases.

The company’s portfolio includes Tepezza, Krystexxa, Actimmune, Duexis, Pennsaid, Rayos/Lodotra, Vimovo, Buphenyl, Procysbi, and Ravicti.