AzurRx boosts GI pipeline through First Wave buyout worth up to $229M

AzurRx is bolstering its pipeline and assuming a new name through its acquisition of First Wave Bio. The cash-and-stock deal could be worth up to $229 million and includes future payments if development, regulatory and sales goals are met.

The combine company will change its name to First Wave BioPharma and start trading on the Nasdaq under its new ticker, “FWBI,” next week, according to a statement.

The buyout comes eight months after AzurRx licensed two programs from First Wave based on niclosamide, an oral small molecule drug with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. One is in development for COVID-19-related GI infections and colitis and diarrhea stemming from checkpoint inhibitor treatment. 

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Besides these two programs, AzurRx adds several new niclosamide-based treatments for inflammatory bowel disease to its pipeline through the deal. These include programs in ulcerative proctitis, ulcerative proctosigmoiditis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 

The new programs join MS1819, which is in development for chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis-related exocrine pancreatic deficiency—the inability to properly digest food stemming from a lack of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas.

“[Data] generated by First Wave Bio in ulcerative proctitis supported the broader potential for niclosamide in multiple inflammatory bowel diseases where we believe our niclosamide formulations could offer significant advantages over other currently available treatments including steroids, 5-ASAs, and biologics—especially in the mild-to-moderate disease stage,” said James Pennington, M.D., chief medical officer of AzurRx, in the statement. 

Because niclosamide targets areas of inflammation in the gut, it could be more effective than systemic treatments, which can suppress the immune system and lead to greater risk of infection.