Sobi signs $450M deal for rare disease drug emapalumab, boosting its inflammation, I/O pipeline

Swedish drugmaker Sobi has bought global rights to a late-stage rare disease drug from Novaimmune SA, building up its inflammation business and potentially lining up a good chunk of new revenue should the drug get approved.

Sobi paid $50 million upfront for the licensing pact, with an additional $400 million over the next 8 years. In return, it’s getting a global license for Novaimmune’s orphan drug candidate emapalumab, which treats a severe rare disease called (stay with me) Haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. HLH for short. This is a hematologic disorder more often seen in children than adults. Patients with HLH have overactive immune systems, with a proliferation of lymphocytes and macrophages that cause inflammation. Instead of destroying damaged cells in the body, the immune system goes after the patient’s own tissues and organs. HLH is classified as one of the cytokine storm syndromes.

Guido Oelkers

A European fililng with the EMA is planned later this year.

The drug might have other therapeutic value, too. Novaimmune has studies in secondary HLH and haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) ongoing or planned. It’s also got some immuno-oncology applications still being tested out in preclinical trials.

The drug could bring in some near-term cash for the company, with sales potential from 2019 onward, and with an estimated annual 2.5 billion-3.0 billion Swedish Krona ($281 million —$337 million).

Sobi also said it’s signed a non-binding letter of intent for a possible acquisition of all emapalumab assets, including the transfer of relevant employees. Sobi’s president and CEO Guido Oelkers had this to say in a statement:

We believe this transaction is an excellent fit for Sobi and consistent with our strategy of expanding our commercial Specialty Care portfolio, strengthening our geographic footprint, particularly in the US, and building our R&D pipeline. The addition of emapalumab to Sobi’s portfolio is a natural fit that builds upon our expertise with Kineret (anakinra) and focuses our business in inflammation, immunology and immuno-oncology. Our strategic goal is to build our Specialty Care business area as a complement to Haemophilia, allowing Sobi to advance our position to become global leaders in rare diseases.

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VP Oncology Biology
Skyhawk Therapeutics Waltham, MA
Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT

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