Novo Nordisk ponies up $1.1B for Forma in effort to shape up sickle cell disease market

Novo Nordisk is handing over $1.1 billion in cash to buy Forma Therapeutics in hopes that the clinical-stage biotech’s assets will help build a leading portfolio in sickle cell disease (SCD).

The Denmark pharma giant will acquire all outstanding shares of the Massachusetts biotech's stock for $20 apiece—a total equity value of $1.1 billion, according to a Sept. 1 release.  

Forma—a 2011 Fierce 15 winner—and debuted on the market in 2020 with an upsized $278 million IPO, the fifth largest biotech IPO of the year. Genentech veteran Frank Lee helps the company. The biotech is centered around etavopivat, a once-daily, selective pyruvate kinase-R activator that is being developed to treat rare genetic blood disorders such as SCD.

Etavopivat is an oral med that has snagged FDA fast track, rare pediatric disease and orphan drug tags.

“We have an ambition to build a leading portfolio with standalone and combination treatments to tackle the complications and underlying causes of sickle cell disease,” said Ludovic Helfgott, executive vice president and head of rare disease at Novo Nordisk. The debilitating, life-threatening disease affects around 17 million people worldwide.  

Etavopivat is being evaluated in a global phase 2/3 SCD trial, as well as in a phase 2 trial in patients with transfusion-dependent SCD and a genetic blood disorder known as thalassemia. Earlier phase 1 data showed etavopivat improved anemia and red blood cell health and appeared to be safe and well-tolerated among patients with SCD.

After Novo Nordisk’s tender offer is completed, the company’s acquisition subsidiary will merge into Forma Therapeutics. Novo is dipping into its financial reserves to pay for the acquisition, so the transaction isn’t expected to impact its previously shared operating profit outlook for 2022.  

The transaction is set to close during the fourth quarter of this year.