Pfizer, riding high on COVID windfall, strikes $5.4B buyout of Global Blood Therapeutics

Riding high on its COVID-19 windfall, Pfizer has been busy scouring the biopharma landscape for new assets to bring into the fold. Now, the drugmaker has inked a buyout of Global Blood Therapeutics and its marketed sickle cell disease drug, Oxbryta.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Pfizer was eyeing GBT in a deal worth about $5 billion, the companies revealed the agreement on Monday. Pfizer plans to buy the sickle cell disease-focused biotech for $68.50 per share, or $5.4 billion.

Amid the deal rumors last week, GBT had a hot week on the stock market. Its shares opened at $32.40 last Monday and were trading at more than $67 on Friday afternoon, good for a gain of more than 100%. 

GBT markets Oxbryta, a drug first approved in 2019 to treat sickle cell disease. In the first quarter of 2022, the med generated $55 million. Aside from Oxbryta, GBT has two other sickle cell prospects in testing: inclacumab and GBT021601.

For Pfizer, the deal bolsters its more than 30-year position in rare hematology, the company said in a release. Sickle cell disease "disproportionately affects people of African descent," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement, so his company wants to speed up distribution of Oxbryta in places where patients need it most.

The companies expect the deal to close as early as the fourth quarter of 2022. If GBT decides to back out of the deal for "specified circumstances" including to accept another buyout offer, the company would have to pay Pfizer a $217 million breakup fee, according to a Monday SEC filing.

And if the deal falls through because of “specified antitrust related circumstances,” “Pfizer’s “reverse termination fee” to GBT would be $326 million.

Pfizer has been busy on the biopharma M&A scene in the wake of its massive pandemic success. In one recent deal, the company struck an agreement to purchase most of migraine player Biohaven for $11.6 billion. With that purchase, Pfizer will get its hands on Biohaven's up-and-coming marketed migraine pill Nurtec. 

Before the Biohaven deal, Pfizer inked a $6.7 billion buyout of Arena Pharmaceuticals in December 2021 and made a $525 million play for RSV therapeutic biotech ReViral in April 2022.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the Monday deal announcement.