Ironwood to Pay $1B to Acquire VectivBio, Late-Stage Digestive Therapy

Human anatomy intestines illustration

Pictured: Illustration of a human body with the intestines highlighted/iStock, Rasi Bhadramani

At $17 per share, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals has agreed to buy VectivBio for around $1 billion in a cash deal. In doing so, the Boston-based company, which already markets Linzess for irritable bowel syndrome and constipation with AbbVie, will expand its gastrointestinal drug portfolio.

The Swiss biotech’s most advanced product is apraglutide, being developed for short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure (SBS-IF) that affects some 18,000 adult patients in the U.S., Europe and Japan, according to the Ironwood press release.

People with the disorder are unable to absorb adequate nutrition from their food, leading to impaired quality of life and sometimes death. Takeda Pharmaceuticals has an approved drug, Gattex, that aims to treat short bowel syndrome but requires daily injections. Apraglutide is being tested in a Phase III study involving weekly injections.

“There’s certainly challenges with daily injections versus a once-week injection. But I think what’s going to really drive it (apraglutide) is the overall efficacy of the drug,” Ironwood CEO Thomas McCourt said in a conference call, Reuters reported.

Last October, VectivBio announced results from the open-label Phase II study showing that the nine enrolled patients with SBS-IF and colon-in-continuity required notable decreases in food given intravenously. Results from the Phase III study are expected by the end of the year.

Apraglutide is also in a Phase II study for acute graft-versus-host disease, with results expected in August 2025. In addition, VectivBio has at least four other assets still at the discovery and preclinical stages, for urea cycle disorders, fatty acid oxidation disorders, amino acidopathies and other acidemias, Endpoints News reported.

Under the cash deal, Ironwood will pay $17 per VectivBio share, a 43% premium to the stock’s closing price on Friday. Ironwood’s stock price was down by nearly 5% in Monday morning trading but has since recovered.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2023. The board of directors of each company has already approved the sale, according to the press release.

VectivBio was launched in January 2020 with $35 million in financing as a spinout of Therachon Holding AG, which was acquired in 2019 by Pfizer.

Jef Akst is managing editor of BioSpace. You can reach her at Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @JefAkst.

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