When drugmakers look to build out certain therapeutic areas, there are two options: Create your own and buy someone else’s. For Stockholm-based Sobi, getting a leg up in hematology meant making an aggressive play to acquire Dova Pharmaceuticals and its so-far-underperforming Doptelet.
Sobi will buy out Dova in a tender offer valued at up to $915 million, the companies said. It's a play to grow Sobi's hematology portfolio, with liver cancer and low blood platelet med Doptelet at the center.
So far Doptelet hasn't amounted to much. Launched in June 2018 in liver disease, it managed to bring in $7.7 million last year and $3.5 million in the second quarter of 2019. Sobi thinks it can do better, partly with the help of a new indication.
Initially approved to treat chronic liver disease in 2016, Doptelet also has an FDA nod for chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) and is in phase 3 testing for chemotherapy-induced thrombocytopenia (CIT), which currently has no FDA-approved treatments.
In a statement, Sobi President and CEO Guido Oelkers said the move would boost the drugmaker’s commercial offerings in the U.S. after Doptelet’s launch in ITP in May 2018.
"The cadence of upcoming launches and approvals across indications and regions that Doptelet provides, enables us to further accelerate growth in our hematology franchise", Oelkers said. "There is a large unmet medical need within thrombocytopenia, and for us this is a great opportunity to be able to give patients access to new and improved treatments.”
As part of the deal, Sobi will take on Dova’s 125 employees when the deal closes, the company said. It's expecting to wrap up the buy before year's end.
Sobi figures the Dova pick-up will add significantly to its commercial hopes, given a projected $2 billion market for oral thrombopoietin receptor agonists (TPO) like Doptelet. The drug is expected go up for European review in ITP in 2020.
The acquisition comes as Dova takes the fight to Novartis' Promacta in ITP with a dramatic price cut in June. Dova slashed the list price of Doptelet by a whopping 66% to $297 per 20-mg tablet. Previously, the sticker for a five-day course stood at $9,000 for the 40-mg daily dose and $13,500 for the 60-mg dose—or $900 per tablet.
Snagging even half of that market share would nearly double Sobi’s revenues from 2018, when it hit $916 million in global sales.
More importantly, the acquisition would help Sobi flesh out a hematology enterprise that includes Gamifant, the company's recently approved treatment for primary haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH). After the drug’s FDA approval in November, Sobi said it would build out its salesforce in a campaign to narrowly target physicians for the ultra-rare disease.
In that plan, the company added six reps as part of a launch-related scale-up that brought in a total of about 30 new employees across marketing, sales, medical and support functions. The other 23 were already on board promoting anti-inflammatory drug Kineret and now they’ll add Gamifant to the mix. Sobi also planned to field a medical force of 14 people and two managers covering both drugs.
That same salesforce—augmented with Dova's staff and Doptelet—could market all three meds at the same time.