UPDATED: Horizon hits the gas pedal on renewed early-stage R&D, enlisting a Mitch Gold biotech in a $1.5B+ deal
Horizon Therapeutics is no stranger to swinging deals, and on Thursday the Irish biotech grabbed itself a new partner to help build out its early-stage pipeline.
In a collaboration expected to bring up to four new programs into the fold, Horizon is teaming up with Alpine Immune Sciences in a deal worth potentially more than $1.5 billion, the companies announced Thursday morning. Horizon will pay $25 million upfront in cash and make a $15 million equity investment, with promises of up to $381 million milestones for each candidate.
Once Alpine advances the molecules to pre-defined preclinical milestones, Horizon will take over all development and commercialization costs.
The companies aren’t sharing much detail on the programs themselves, though they noted Horizon has already selected a lead preclinical candidate. A press release noted the collaboration will “include previously undisclosed multi-specific fusion protein-based therapeutic candidates for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.”
Andy Pasternak, Horizon’s chief strategy officer, told Endpoints News in an interview that Thursday’s deal fits into the company’s broader plans to beef up its discovery and preclinical efforts. Alpine’s platform centers around the ability to hit multiple pathways with a single molecule, Pasternak said, providing the main appeal of the partnership.
“When we combine that with our insights on the research side of targets that we want to pursue, as well as ultimately, our clinical development and commercial capabilities, we felt that that was a very nice fit,” Pasternak told Endpoints.
But Thursday’s deal is unlikely to be Horizon’s last, he added, as Alpine represents just “one piece of our research strategy.” Horizon will continue to be active on the business development front as well as looking for more collaborations.
Alpine chief business officer Remy Durand said in an interview, meanwhile, that the deal marks a capstone in a great year for the biotech. The platform in question deals with developing drugs based off native signaling proteins in the immune synapse.
“Our domains are much smaller, they’re about half the size of a typical antibody,” Durand said. “And this allows them to interpolate more effectively and efficiently within the immune synapse, and to engage multiple targets in a more natural way, as opposed to going in with a larger antibody.”
It’s been a fairly busy year for Horizon as the company kicked off 2021 with a $3 billion buyout of AstraZeneca spinout Viela back in February. The deal came with the rare disease drug Uplizna, which won approval in the summer of 2020 and could serve as a rival to AstraZeneca’s Soliris — acquired in the megamerger with Alexion.
Then in June, Horizon doubled down on gout in a partnership with Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals that saw the Irish biotech shell out $40 million upfront. Horizon has about $660 million in milestones promised in this deal, focusing on the program known as ARO-XDH, an investigational RNAi therapy for uncontrolled gout.
The company is also dabbling in manufacturing, buying out an Irish plant for $65 million in July. Horizon plans to utilize the facility for its filling line and freeze dryer that can be used for its commercial medicines Tepezza, Uplizna and Krystexxa, as well as for drug development.
For Alpine, the biotech has a couple of in-house pipeline programs in addition to partnerships with AbbVie in lupus and Adaptimmune for cell therapies. Alpine is likely hoping this deal doesn’t go the way of another previous partnership with Gilead’s Kite, however, in which the big biotech called off a collaborative effort on CAR-Ts and TCRs.
This article has been updated to include comment from Alpine chief business officer Remy Durand.