Novartis in $1.6 bln deal for Ionis, Akcea drugs

The drugs being developed, AKCEA-APO (a)-LRx and AKCEA-APOCIII-LRx, have the potential to "significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in patients suffering from high levels of lipoproteins known as Lp (a) and ApoCIII", according to a news release from Novartis.

Novartis AG NVS, +2.00% has agreed to pay up to $1.6 billion to Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Both drugs aim to lower the level of cholesterol-carrying proteins in the blood and reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular diseases developing.

Under the terms of the deal, which remains subject to closing conditions, Novartis will be able to exercise its options to license and commercialise these novel therapies following achievement of specified development milestones and before the start of Phase III trials.

Ionis and Akcea are eligible to receive $225 million in near-term payments, including a $75 million up-front option payment and a $100 million equity investment in Ionis, Ionis said in a separate statement. Novartis would then be responsible for worldwide development and commercialisation of both assets. They are intended for those with high levels of these lipids, making them at risk for cardiovascular disease. Novartis will invest $100M in Ionis via the purchase of 1,631,435 shares of common stock at $61.30 upfront and an additional $50M investment in the next 18 months either in IONS or Akcea.

In addition, Ionis and Akcea can receive up to $315 million and $265 million in development and regulatory milestone payments for AKCEA-APO (a)-LRx and AKCEA-APOCIII-LRx, respectively, plus commercialization milestone payments of up to $285 million and $265 million for each drug, respectively.

Messer said "sales from this drug plus royalties from recently approved Spinraza in spinal muscular atrophy will be sufficient to keep Ionis in the black".

By combining with Novartis, Ionis and Akcea can speed up testing and commercializing the drugs, Ionis Chairman and CEO Stanley T. Crooke said in a Friday conference call. The Company is developing transformational drugs, which include nusinersen, IONIS-TTR and volanesorsen that are created to treat patients with orphan diseases. Its Phase II pipeline includes drugs to treat patients with severe and rare diseases, viral infections, ocular diseases, metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

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