Zevra strikes $91M buyout of Acer to catapult itself into commercial rare disease space

Zevra Therapeutics has jumped the queue to become a commercial rare disease company, thanks to a fresh acquisition and the addition of a new marketed product.

Zevra is laying out $91 million to get its hands on rare disease compatriot Acer Therapeutics, the companies announced Thursday. Under the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, Acer shareholders are also in line to receive up to $76 million in potential cash payments tied to contingent value rights around commercial and regulatory milestones for rare disease drugs Olpruva and Edsivo.

Acer’s Olpruva won U.S. approval to treat urea cycle disorders (UCDs) back in December. For patients with UCDs, the liver is missing an enzyme needed to convert nitrogen into urea. In patients with the disease, ammonia, which is highly toxic, builds up in the bloodstream and isn’t removed from the body.

Meanwhile, Edsivo, also known as celiprolol, has become the “standard of care” for off-label treatment of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome in Europe, according to Acer’s website. Ehlers-Danlos, also known as EDS, is an autosomal inherited disorder caused by mutations in the genes responsible for the structure, production or processing of collagen.

Aside from potential commercial milestones, Acer investors could receive additional cash payments linked to regulatory milestones around the company's early-stage program ACER-2820 for infectious diseases.

The deal still needs to be confirmed by Acer’s shareholders, the companies said.

The pact is set to accelerate Zevra’s goal to grow in the rare disease field, according to the company’s interim CEO and chief development officer Christal Mickle.

“The commercial launch of Olpruva in the U.S. requires a small, highly-focused commercial team, which is complementary to what we intend to build for arimoclomol, our product candidate for the treatment of Niemann-Pick disease Type C (NPC),” she said in a statement.

Zevra boasts one other commercial drug: Azstarys for the treatment of ADHD in patients ages 6 and up. That drug has the potential to reach “one or more” milestones in 2023, plus generate continued royalty revenue, the company says online. Azstarys was first approved in March of 2021.