Bioverativ to buy True North for $400M upfront

The True North buyout helps Bioverativ expand beyond hemophilia. (Courtesy of omloop)

Bioverativ has struck a deal to buy True North Therapeutics. The deal will see the Biogen spinout pay $400 million upfront and up to $425 million in milestones to acquire the rare disease biotech and its clinical-phase treatment for cold agglutinin disease (CAD), TNT009.

If the deal closes as expected in the coming months, Bioverativ will gain its first clinical-stage asset. Bioverativ spun out of Biogen in February with two commercial products, a substantial preclinical program and plans to use its $325 million cash pile to fill in the gap between these extremes. The True North takeover marks the start of that process and, if TNT009 can live up to promising early data, will help Bioverativ realize its vision of expanding beyond hemophilia to develop into a rare blood disorder specialist.

“[The takeover] strengthens our pipeline with a potential first-in-class therapy to treat CAD, a rare blood disorder with a high unmet patient need,” Bioverativ CEO John Cox said in a statement. “People living with CAD currently have no approved treatment options and suffer with a significant disease burden including crippling fatigue, frequent transfusions and an increased risk of life-threatening thrombotic events such as pulmonary embolism and stroke.”

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Monoclonal antibody TNT009 is designed to improve outcomes in patients with the autoimmune hemolytic anemia CAD by targeting C1 to inhibit the classical complement pathway. This pathway is activated in CAD patients by the binding of autoantibodies to red blood cells at temperatures of 37°C and below.

True North established itself as a biotech to watch at the European Hematology Association (EHA) meeting 11 months ago. At EHA, True North presented data from a phase 1b trial showing four of the first five patients to receive TNT009 responded to the treatment within the first 24 hours. After four weeks of treatment, three of the subjects experienced complete responses, defined as their hemoglobin levels rising to upward of 12 g/dl.

Those data helped True North put together a $45 million Series D round in October, at which time CEO Nancy Stagliano talked up the prospects of pushing TNT009 through the clinic and to market without the support of a larger partner.

The Series D round positioned True North to take TNT009 into phase 2 while also ramping up spending on the rest of its pipeline. Bioverativ highlighted discovery-stage follow-on monoclonal antibody TNT020 in its release to unveil the deal.

For some of the backers that drove True North to its $45 million Series D and earlier rounds, the Bioverativ buyout marks a second success from one source. True North spun out of iPierian in 2013 and received financial support from some of the same investors, including GlaxoSmithKline’s SR One. Those investors profited when Bristol-Myers Squibb bought iPierian, and are set to do so again when Bioverativ completes its takeover of True North.