Swiss healthcare group Galenica to buy US biotech company Relypsa for $1.53 bn

Swiss healthcare group Galenica yesterday struck a deal to buy US biotech company Relypsa for $1.53 billion, in order to strengthen its Vifor Pharma unit just before it becomes an independent specialty pharma company.

Galenica, the owner of Switzerland's largest pharmacy network, is offering to pay $32 per share in cash, a 59 per cent premium to Relypsa's Wednesday's closing price.

Galenica, based in Bern, expects to fund the transaction through cash on hand and a bridge loan from Credit Suisse.

The acquisition is expected to strengthen Vifor Pharma ahead of the planned split of the Galenica Group into two independent companies in 2017.

California-based Relypsa is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of polymeric medicines for patients with conditions that are often overlooked and undertreated and can be addressed in the gastrointestinal tract.

The company's first medicine, Veltassa oral suspension, was approved in the US in 2015 for the treatment of hyperkalaemia. The drug has patent protection until 2030 in the US and 2029 in the European Union.

Veltassa is the first medicine for treatment of people with elevated blood potassium levels to be approved in the US in more than 50 years and the only hyperkalaemia medicine with long-term data in its label supporting chronic use.

Hyperkalaemia is a potentially life-threatening condition which occurs most frequently in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and heart failure. It affects approximately 3 million people in the US with stage 3 or 4 CKD and/or heart failure, giving Veltassa the potential to become a blockbuster medicine.

Vifor Pharma already has rights to Relypsa's drug outside the US and Japan, and the deal will give the company global control of the drug.

Vifor Pharma is an emerging company focused in cardio-renal and gastroenterology therapies. The deal will provide Vifor Pharma with full global rights to Veltassa and also significantly enhance the commercial visibility and presence of the company in the key US cardio-renal market.

''The combination of Vifor Pharma and Relypsa is an important step towards achieving our goal of building a world-leading specialty pharmaceutical company focused on nephrology, cardiology and gastroenterology medicines,'' said Etienne Jornod, executive chairman of Galenica.

''This acquisition will give Vifor Pharma direct access to the key US market, enabling us to maximise the potential of our compelling product portfolio and enhancing our growing attraction as an international partner of choice,'' he added.