Capitalizing on share price crash, AstraZeneca inks $1.8B CinCor takeover for blood pressure drug

AstraZeneca has kicked off the J.P.Morgan Healthcare Conference with a deal, capitalizing on the recent collapse of CinCor Pharma’s share price to snap up the blood pressure biotech in a $1.8 billion deal.

Shares in CinCor traded above $30 throughout much of the fall of 2022, only to plummet precipitously in late November when the biotech shared phase 2 data on aldosterone synthase inhibitor baxdrostat in uncontrolled hypertension. The clinical trial missed its primary endpoint. And, while CinCor committed to moving into phase 3 in 2023, investors fled and dragged the company’s share price down to around $12.

The sharp shift in sentiment created an opportunity for AstraZeneca, which has agreed to buy CinCor for $26 a share. A further $10 a share is tied to a specified regulatory submission of a baxdrostat product. If CinCor hits the milestone, the fee will rise from $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion.

CEO Marc de Garidel said CinCor accepted the offer after a “careful and thorough process” determined it was in the company’s best interest and will maximize the value for shareholders. De Garidel expects the involvement of AstraZeneca to accelerate the development of baxdrostat.

The drug candidate, which CinCor in-licensed from Roche, is designed to lower levels of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates blood pressure, without affecting cortisol synthesis. Selectivity for CYP11B2, the gene that encodes aldosterone synthase, over CYP11B1, a gene involved in cortisol synthesis, is needed if drugs that treat cardiovascular diseases by lowering aldosterone levels are to succeed.

CinCor’s development program has targeted uncontrolled hypertension, enrolling hard-to-treat patients who are taking multiple antihypertensive agents, including a diuretic, and are at risk of outcomes such as stroke and heart attack. De Garidel said there has been “very limited” innovation in the field for years, adding that baxdrostat could be a very important treatment for the patient population. 

AstraZeneca thinks the mechanism has promise. As well as developing the candidate as a monotherapy, AstraZeneca sees opportunities to combine it with Farxiga to address cardiorenal diseases. While flying solo, CinCor was aiming to seek approval for the molecule in 2025.

The deal marks another exit for de Garidel, whose appointment as CEO of CinCor in 2021 came around one year after he led Corvidia Therapeutics to a takeover by Novo Nordisk. Corvidia sold for $725 million upfront plus up to $1.4 billion in milestones.