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Novartis acquires AveXis Inc for $8.7bn, aims to become a leader in gene therapy

gene therapy (Getty Images)

Novartis has entered into an agreement to acquire AveXis, Inc, where it will gain the US-based Nasdaq-listed clinical stage gene therapy company for $218 per share ($8.7bn in cash).

AveXis has several ongoing clinical studies for the treatment of SMA, an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by a defect in a single gene, the survival motor neuron (SMN1).

The lead AveXis gene therapy candidate, AVXS-101, has highly compelling clinical data in treating SMA Type 1, which is the number one genetic cause of death in infants, where 9 out of 10 infants do not live to their second birthday or are permanently ventilator dependent. It is estimated that one out of every 6,000-10,000 children born is affected by some form of SMA.

Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said: "The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition.

“The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience. We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas.”

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If approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, AVXS-101 will be a first-in-class one-time therapy that addresses the root genetic cause of SMA by effectively replacing the defective SMN1 gene.

In a clinical study, AVXS-101 showed life-saving efficacy, with all 15 infants treated event free at 20 months compared with an event-free survival rate of 8% in an historical cohort (NEJM, November 2017). AveXis will also present two-year data to the American Academy of Neurology.

“We have a robust internal portfolio of gene therapies in ophthalmology and neuroscience in Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. We look forward to using AveXis’ capabilities and technical development capabilities to be able to advance that portfolio,” Narasimhan added.

Paul Hudson, CEO Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said: "Bringing AveXis on board would support both our ambition to be a leader in neurodegenerative diseases and our Neuroscience franchise priorities to strengthen our position in devastating paediatric neurological diseases such as SMA. We relish the opportunity to leverage our expertise, our 70-plus year heritage in neuroscience and our global footprint to help AVXS-101 benefit high-need SMA patients around the world."

AveXis also offers state of the art AAV9 gene therapy manufacturing capabilities and valuable R&D capabilities, which in addition to AVXS-101, includes other pipeline products for Rett Syndrome (RTT) and a genetic form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) caused by mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene. AAV9 is considered to be a clinically proven gene delivery platform for diseases of the central nervous system (CNS).

The transaction is expected to close in mid-2018.

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