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US Biotech Firm Asklepios Bio To Be Acquired By Bayer For Up To $4 Bln

US Biotech Firm Asklepios Bio To Be Acquired By Bayer For Up To $4 Bln
Agreement to acquire the United States based biotech firm Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc for a deal which could be worth as much as $4 billion was reached by Bayer with the former company hoping to take advantage of the former’s expertise on gene therapy with the help of modified viruses.
Bayer said on Monday that it would be paying $2 billion upfront and up to $2 billion more as milestone payments based on the development of achievements of the milestones.
Currently, the North Carolina-based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc, which is also known as AskBio, is attempting to use the harmless adeno-associated virus as a delivery device to bring genetic repair kits against a range of diseases into the body. There is a need to upgrade its drug development pipeline for the drugs and farming pesticides maker Bayer in the face of a weaker forecast for agricultural sales and with the company trying to come to a final settlement finalise of $11 billion over suits and damage claims over the claim of Roundup weedkiller causing cancer.
Early tests on volunteers of prospective treatments against Pompe disease, one against Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure are among AskBio's most advanced projects. The Pompe disease is a rare genetic disease that caused buildup of a sugar molecule inside cells.
The 2019 acquisition of BlueRock Therapeutics, a developer of stem cell therapies, is complemented by this latest deal, Bayer said. this deal also highlights the target of Bayer to   create a business around cell and gene therapy.
Information will be shared between BlueRock and AskBio, which was founded in 2001. However each of them will also operate as separate independent entities which has prompted a pledge from the five main owners of AskBio, who are co-founders or key scientists, to continue to remain with the company.
"We are staying on board because of the unique structure that Bayer has provided ... We’ll have the ability to make our science decisions," said Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Sheila Mikhail.
A minority stake in the company is to be sold by investors TPG Capital and Vida Ventures.
AskBio has licensed experimental drugs to external partners and is also helping other companies with their gene therapy research and production. Revenues generated from those activities have been used by the company to fund a large portion of its own drug development activities. No figures for such fee revenues were provided by Bayer or AskBio.
Currently, Pfizer is developing through clinical trials a potential treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy that has been invented by AskBio and this treatment was granted fast track status by regulators in eh United States.
Greater dependence on external firms to improve drug development is being focused by Bayer since 2018. According to analysts, this needs a boost because of a projected decline in revenues from its two pharma bestsellers starting about 2024.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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