Bayer Acquires Asklepios BioPharmaceutical

James Marshall
October 28, 2020

German pharma company Bayer (BAYN.DE) has acquired US-based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical in a deal worth up to $4bn (£3bn).

Under the deal, AskBio will get an upfront payment of $2bn from Bayer and is eligible for success-based milestone payments of up to $2bn. The platform is used by multiple companies, including Pfizer, Takeda and Viralgen Vector Core SA.

A potential treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, invented by AskBio is now being developed in clinical trials by Pfizer (NYSE:) and this month won fast track status from USA regulators. It initially developed the gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy that Illinois-based AveXis, a subsidiary of Novartis, won approval for from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019. AskBio's lead research programs are created to treat Pompe disease, Parkinson's disease, and congestive heart failure, and are in early clinical phases. The company's development portfolio includes investigational pre-clinical and clinical stage candidates for the treatment of neuromuscular, central nervous system, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

AskBio, which was founded in 2001, and BlueRock will exchange information and collaborate but will each operate as independent entities, prompting a pledge from AskBio's five main owners, who are co-founders or key scientists, to remain with the firm.

AskBio had been planning an initial public offering when it was approached by Bayer, chief executive officer Sheila Mikhail said.

The company's co-founder Jude Samulski is a gene therapy pioneer, whose early work included demonstrating that AAV could be cloned for therapeutic purposes.

Bayer said on Monday that it will own full rights to AskBio's gene therapy platform, including a broad intellectual property portfolio and an established contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) laying the foundation for future partnerships in the area of adeno-associated virus (AAV) therapies. BlueRock is developing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), with its most advanced program aimed at Parkinson's disease.

Bayer said in a statement it created a special business unit for cell and gene therapies, bringing together research performed by other entities including BlueRock Therapeutics, which it fully acquired previous year.

"In line with our objective "science for a better life", we are committed to bringing significant improvements for patients through innovation", said Werner Baumann, Chairman of the Board of Management (CEO) of Bayer AG.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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