Sobi snatches up CTI and blood cancer drug Vonjo in $1.7B purchase

Swedish blood disorder specialist Sobi has enhanced its portfolio with a $1.7 billion acquisition of Seattle-based CTI BioPharma and its myelofibrosis treatment Vonjo, a potential blockbuster that was approved last year.

The deal is for $9.10 per share, which is an 89% increase on CTI’s closing price of $4.82 on Tuesday. News of the deal sent CTI’s share price on a tear, increasing 83% in pre-market trading. By mid-morning on Wednesday, Sobi’s shares had fallen by 15%.

“We anticipated this reaction but this cannot stop us from doing what is right for the company,” Sobi CEO Guido Oelkers told Reuters. “We want to be a global leader in rare disease.”

The companies expect to close the deal in the third quarter of this year.

The primary asset Sobi gains from the 32-year-old company is JAK2  inhibitor Vonjo (pacritinib), an oral drug approved 15 months ago on an accelerated basis as the first treatment for cytopenic myelofibrosis.

Roughly 21,000 people in the U.S. have myelofibrosis, with two-thirds having cytopenias—thrombocytopenia or anemia, which commonly result from the toxicity of other approved therapies. The annual wholesale acquisition cost of Vonjo comes to $240,000.

In three quarters on the market last year, Vonjo generated sales of $54 million, with $21 million of that coming in the fourth quarter, the company reported. CTI said on Wednesday that given the transaction, it would not report first-quarter financial results or hold a conference call.

CEO Adam Craig said in a release that the sale positions CTI to unlock the commercial potential of Vonjo.

“By joining forces, we have access to additional financial and development resources to drive and enhance the growth of Vonjo,” Craig said.

As for Sobi, in a release, Oelkers called CTI a “perfect fit” which will help it build a top franchise in rare hematology.

Sobi said that Vonjo is “highly complementary” to its portfolio, which includes thrombocytopenia drug Doptelet. The treatment, which has been on the market for five years and was acquired in Sobi’s $915 million buyout of Dova in 2019, generated sales of 2.53 billion kronor ($250 million) last year.

Two years ago, Sobi appeared on the verge of going private as an investor group lined up a $7.6 billion buyout of the company. But in December 2021, AstraZeneca, which holds an 8% stake in Sobi, blocked the move because it feared the potential that a Sobi respiratory medicine could be sold to a competitor.