Horizon snaps up Curzion Pharma and its ex-Sanofi rare disease drug

Horizon Therapeutics snagged a rare disease drug originally developed by Sanofi. (Sanofi)

Horizon Therapeutics has added to its growing acquisitive pipeline with the buyout of Curzion Pharmaceuticals for just $45 million.

It gains the privately held biotech’s oral selective lysophosphatidic acid 1 receptor antagonist, which was known as CZN001 and is now renamed HZN-825. Though a small upfront fee, biobucks are wedded to that drug’s success further down the line.

The therapy, originally discovered and developed by Sanofi before being licensed out to Curzion, is being tested for diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis (dcSSc) a rare, chronic autoimmune disease marked by fibrosis, or skin thickening, in areas including hands, forearms, upper arms and thighs.

It can causes major secondary conditions, and there are no specific meds on the market for the disease. Sanofi undertook five phase 1 trials tests of the drug.

Horizon says that a short-term exploratory phase 2a study of HZN-825 in dcSSc was completed and “showed evidence of potential clinical benefit in this patient population.”

More trials are, of course, needed; Horizon said it is plotting a pharmacokinetic study this year and will meet with the FDA to talk about a pivotal study expected to begin in the first half of 2021.

“This acquisition is one of several transactions we intend to make that directly aligns with our strategy to expand our development-stage pipeline, with a focus on our core therapeutic areas of rheumatology, nephrology, endocrinology and ophthalmology,” said Tim Walbert, chairman, president and CEO of Horizon.

“We look forward to meeting with regulatory authorities to define the development pathway for HZN-825 to potentially offer help to those who are impacted by this devastating disease.”

Horizon has had a busy few years: It started out in Illinois before moving its headquarters to Ireland in 2014 through its acquisition of Vidara Therapeutics. It picked up chronic granulomatous disease drug Actimmune. It built much of its portfolio through M&A, including gout medicine Krystexxa from its 2016 Crealta buyout and its late-stage eye disease med teprotumumab, which it scored through its $145 million acquisition of River Vision in 2017.

Late last year, the biopharma expanded its U.S. footprint to the Bay Area, unveiling a new R&D and manufacturing site in South San Francisco.

This all comes before the January FDA approval of Tepezza (teprotumumab) for thyroid eye disease. Last summer, the company beefed up its sales force for a drug that is expected to run around $150,000 per course of treatment and yield U.S. sales of more than $750 million, although in the current COVID-19 climate, this may prove far more difficult to achieve.