Italy-based Chiesi Farmaceutici (Chiesi Group) has agreed to buy the licensing rights of Raxone (idebenone), an approved drug for Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) in Europe, from Swiss pharma company Santhera Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth up to CHF105m (£82.5m).
The licensing rights of Raxone to Chiesi Group will be applicable in all countries with the exception of the US and Canada and in LHON and all other ophthalmological indications. In the two countries, the Swiss pharma company will retain rights over the synthetic short-chain benzoquinone.
Santhera CEO Thomas Meier said: “Since the approval in 2015 we have successfully launched Raxone in Europe and reported strong year-on-year sales increases. In the past eighteen months we also strategically diversified our pipeline.
“This license agreement for Raxone in LHON, our sole neuro-ophthalmology asset, will allow us to create significant value for our shareholders as it provides financial resources enabling us to focus on delivering innovation to patients with neuromuscular and pulmonary diseases of great unmet medical need.”
As per the terms of the deal, Chiesi Group will pay CHF50m (£39.29m) as upfront cash payment and up to CHF55m (£43.21m) in the form of near- to mid-term sales milestone payments.
The deal gives the Italian pharma company an option to completely acquire the Raxone business of Santhera, which will be after the completion of certain reimbursement and post-regulatory commitments on the part of the Swiss company.
Santhera said that the transaction will help it focus on its core business areas by advancing its neuromuscular and pulmonary programs into clinical stage.
Chiesi Group CEO Ugo Di Francesco said: “Chiesi Group has a strong commitment in the orphan diseases area, bringing innovative treatments forward to patients affected by rare or ultra-rare disorders and improving the quality of life of people with rare diseases is one of the most important goals.
“This strategic partnership reinforces this commitment with a therapeutic offer for patients affected by LHON, a neurodegenerative disease targeting the optic nerve and characterized by sudden vision loss.”
The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year based on receipt of customary approvals.