Intercept Pharmaceuticals explores sale

Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc, a US biotechnology company focusing on treatments for chronic liver diseases, is exploring a potential sale after receiving interest from other companies, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Intercept, based in New York, has been working with investment bankers to explore a sale, but there is no certainty on whether the company would decide to proceed with any transaction, the report said.

The report sent the stock of Intercept Pharmaceuticals by more than 27 per cent in Friday's trade to give it a market cap of nearly $3 billion.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals has been the subject of takeover rumours since the past year. Rival pharma companies Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, and Irish rare disease drugmaker, Shire Plc were said to be possible suitors.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals focuses on developing novel therapeutics to treat chronic liver diseases utilizing its proprietary bile acid chemistry.

Its product candidates have the potential to treat orphan and more prevalent diseases for which there currently are limited therapeutic solutions.

Currently the company has no approved product in the market, but its lead product candidate, obeticholic acid, or OCA, is a bile acid analog and agonist of the farnesoid X receptor.

OCA is initially being developed for the second-line treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) in patients with an inadequate response to, or who are unable to tolerate, ursodiol, the only approved therapy for this indication.

PBC is a chronic autoimmune liver disease that may progress to cirrhosis and liver failure, and it is currently the fourth leading indication for liver transplant in the United States. OCA has orphan drug designation in both the US and Europe for the treatment of PBC.

But in December 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration postponed by three months its decision on Intercept's marketing application for OCA.

Intercept owns worldwide rights to OCA outside of Japan and China, where it has outlicensed the product candidate to Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma.