Sanofi, aiming to speed MS treatment, to acquire Principia Biopharma for $3.68 billion

Sanofi said Monday that it is acquiring Principia Biopharma for $3.68 billion, giving the French drug giant full control over the multiple sclerosis treatment the companies share.

The deal values Principia at $100 per share, a 10% premium over the company’s closing price Friday, but represents a 35% premium to the price of Principia stock on July 15.  Bloomberg News reported on July 16 that Sanofi was considering making acquisitions, with Principia as a likely target. The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies, Sanofi said.

The key asset in the deal is a drug called SAR442168, a type of medicine known as a Bruton’s kinase inhibitor, or BTK inhibitor. Other BTK inhibitors are used to treat cancer, but not MS, a neurodegenerative disease in which the immune system damages the central nervous system. Sanofi has said that SAR 442168 could become a big seller, potentially generating billions of dollars annually.

In February, Sanofi released results showing that the drug “significantly reduced disease activity associated with multiple sclerosis as measured by magnetic resonance imaging.”

In a statement, Paul Hudson, Sanofi’s CEO, said that the deal “removes complexities for this priority development program and simplifies future commercialization.”

But the deal also gives Sanofi several other BTK inhibitors that Principia has been developing for other diseases. Rilzabrutinib is currently in Phase 3 trials for patients with a rare disease called pemphigus, in which the immune system causes blistering of the skin and mucous membranes. Another Phase 3 study of the drug is expected to begin soon in thrombocytopenia, which causes bleeding. Another BTK inhibitor, PRN473, is a topical agent in Phase 1 trials for immune mediated diseases.

Hudson said the deal “advances our ongoing R&D transformation to accelerate development of the most promising medicines that will address significant patient needs.”

Principia, based in South San Francisco, was founded in 2008, but began operations in 2011 under its current chief executive, Martin Babler. The company inked its deal with Sanofi in 2017 and went public in 2018.

“Principia’s successful design and development of a whole portfolio of BTK inhibitors for immunology is aimed to transform the treatment for patients with immune-mediated diseases,” Babler said in a statement. “By combining with Sanofi, we will bring significant resources to expand and accelerate the potential benefits of these therapies.”

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