wilsonBy Mitchell Young

NEW HAVEN: Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. [NASDAQ:ALXN] is acquiring Wilson Therapeutics AB (publ) for $855 million, in an all cash transaction. Wilson Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company, based in Stockholm, Sweden, that develops “novel therapies for patients with rare copper-mediated disorders.“

The offer represents a premium of 89 percent over the 90-day volume-weighted average of Wilson's shares [NASDAQStockholm:WTX)]. Alexion's board unanimously approved the purchase offer, and Wilson’s board recommended shareholders accept it.

Alexion has added four new directors, three with significant bioscience backgrounds in the past six months. A unanimous vote likely assumes approval of the purchase by activist investor Elliot Management. Elliot had previously raised issues about the management and board of the company. Elliot has since praised the new director picks and had some direct involvement in at least one new board member..

According to Alexion’s statement, close to three-quarters of Wilson's shareholders have either agreed to or expressed support for the offer. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

Wilson Therapeutics’ product, WTX101, is in Phase 3 development as a treatment for Wilson disease, a rare genetic disorder which according to Alexion, is a “devastating hepatic and neurological consequences for patients. WTX101 is a first-in-class oral copper-binding agent with a unique mechanism of action and ability to access and bind copper from serum and promote its removal from the liver.”

WTX101 has received Fast Track designation in the U.S. and Orphan Drug Designation for the treatment of Wilson disease in the U.S. and EU.

Wilson Therapeutics was founded in 2012 by Healthcap, a Stockholm-based venture capital fund. In addition to its private fundraising the company raised $53 million in its public offering.The company's prospectus said the US market could be worth $1 billion per year. The clinical stage company [Wilson] has approximately 17 employees.

Wilson disease affects approximately one in every 30,000 people worldwide, The US and European market is expected to be approximately 20-25,000 patients.

Wilson’s prospectus' estimate that the US market of approximately 10,000 patients could yield the company $1 billion in sales, works out to be approximately $100,000 per patient. Currently one treatment for the disease costs approximately $23,000 per year. Alexion has made no statements on expected costs to bring the product to approval or expected revenues and product costs.

The company has commented on the strategic fit of the acquisition, “Wilson disease is a rare disorder that can lead to severe liver disease, including cirrhosis and acute liver failure, as well as debilitating neurological morbidities such as impaired movement, gait, speech, swallowing, and psychiatric disorders. WTX101 is an innovative product that addresses the underlying cause of the disease and has the potential to define a new standard of care in treating Wilson disease, an area that has not had a new treatment in over two decades,” said Ludwig Hantson, Chief Executive Officer of Alexion. Adding, “The acquisition of Wilson Therapeutics is a strong strategic fit for Alexion given the overlap with our current clinical and commercial focus on metabolic and neurologic disorders, and is an important first step in rebuilding our clinical pipeline.”

While there are treatments for Wilson, no new treatments have been made available im more than 20 years.

According to the companies, “a Phase 2 study evaluating the efficacy and safety of WTX101 in patients with Wilson disease has been completed successfully. In addition, the active moiety of WTX101, tetrathiomolybdate, has been tested in several previous clinical studies in Wilson disease patients. The data from these studies suggest that WTX101 can reduce and control free copper levels and improve symptoms and associated disabilities.”

Wilson’s Phase III Trial is not expected to conclude until the second half of 2019. Alexion will be assuming the carrying and development costs going forward, in addition to the purchase price. Revenues won’t likely come until well into 2020, after regulatory approvals.

While several stock analysts have praised the move, for its diversification of Alexion’s pipeline, the market has had little reaction to the announcement. The stock has been in a trading range of 106 to 114 for some time, a drop from $149 in September 2017.