Horizon Expands R&D Portfolio by Buying Viela Bio

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by Diana Campelo Delgado |

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Horizon Therapeutics is growing its rare disease portfolio by acquiring the biotechnology company Viela Bio, including the approved medicine Uplizna for treating neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

“This acquisition represents a significant step forward in advancing our strategy — to expand our pipeline,” Tim Walbert, chairman, president, and CEO of Horizon, said a press release.

Uplizna (inebilizumab-cdon) was developed by Viela Bio to treat patients with NMOSD, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the optic nerve — which sends and receives signals from the eye — and the spinal cord, leading to loss of vision and problems in muscle control.

The treatment is a humanized anti-CD19 monoclonal antibody that targets B-cells, a type of immune cell. When Uplizna binds to B-cells, it inhibits their antibody production, reducing the risk of NMOSD attacks.

It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2020 for adults with NMOSD who test positive for aquaporin-4 water channel autoantibodies. Patients receive Uplizna as an intravenous (into-the-vein) infusion twice a year.

The therapy is currently being evaluated for other indications, including a Phase 3 clinical trial in myasthenia gravis, a rare neuromuscular disease, and a Phase 2 trial in kidney transplant desensitization.

Besides Uplizna, Viela Bio’s pipeline includes other investigational candidates in nine development programs for autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases.

“Our collective R&D [research and development] expertise coupled with Horizon’s commercial capabilities, has the potential to provide benefit to more patients with high unmet treatment needs,” said Bing Yao, PhD, chairman and CEO of Viela Bio.

Under the new agreement, Horizon will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Viela Bio for $53 per share in cash, which represents a fully diluted equity value of approximately $3.05 billion.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of the first quarter this year.

“Adding Viela’s research and clinical development capabilities along with its deep, mid-stage biologics pipeline to our seasoned R&D and commercial teams, advances our transformation,” added Walbert. “We intend to maximize the full potential of Viela’s pipeline, including the pursuit of additional future indications.”