Defending its prize franchise, Vertex forks over $160M cash to grab Concert’s simplified version of Kalydeco

James Cassella, Concert

Concert Pharmaceuticals’ $CNCE chief claim to fame is using deuterium to reformulate drugs, stretching effects for patients in ways that make them easier to use with fewer doses. And its mid-stage effort on a longer-acting version of Vertex’s Kalydeco for cystic fibrosis was too tempting — or threatening — to pass up.

Vertex announced this morning that it is buying the drug — CTP-656 — for $160 million in cash and another $90 million in milestones, taking over the Phase II trial. That’s enough money to fund Concert out another four years, and investors rallied to the news, driving the biotech’s shares up a whopping 78% by midday.

James Cassella, the chief development officer for Concert, noted after the Phase I last summer that the drug “profile supports simplified dosing, with the potential for improved efficacy.”

That’s an important item for Vertex $VRTX, which has been developing cocktail therapies with Kalydeco to expand its reach in the patient population. Using a single daily dose version of the drug will make that task simpler as investigators work on a single-dose versions that will help patients stay compliant with their dosing.

Vertex isn’t leaving anything CF related on the table. In the deal it’s buying all of Concert’s work in the field and picking up development. And that helps flag Vertex’s plans to aggressively protect its CF franchise, says Geoffrey Porges. He notes:

CTP-656 was one of numerous CF competitors in early clinical trials that have been advanced in parallel with Vertex’s race to concoct a triple-therapy regimen for the majority of CF patients, and today’s news signals, in our view, the willingness of Vertex to defend its dominant and valuable position in the market category.

“With Vertex’s clinical and commercial expertise in CF, this agreement provides the optimal pathway to rapidly advance the development of CTP-656 for the benefit of cystic fibrosis patients,” said Conceret CEO Roger Tung in a statement. “The financial strength provided to Concert by this agreement will allow us to advance CTP-543 into pivotal testing and broaden our proprietary development pipeline.”

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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