Incyte, fresh off gaining MorphoSys drug, buys Escient for $750M

Incyte is dolloping another deal onto its 2024 partnership plate, buying San Diego-based Escient Pharmaceuticals for $750 million. 

The acquisition, announced Tuesday, would give Incyte ownership over two budding immunology and inflammation candidates, led by EP262, in development for a handful of inflammatory skin conditions. The second asset, EP547, is in two phase 1 trials to treat itching associated with kidney and liver diseases, respectively. 

The two meds bolster Incyte’s dermatology portfolio behind JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor cream Opzelura, which is approved to treat atopic dermatitis and vitiligo. Opzelura is in clinical trials for at least five other indications with two other clinical-stage next-gen assets in the wings. 

“EP262 and EP547 are complementary additions to our portfolio, providing an opportunity to leverage our expertise, address the needs of patients with inflammatory diseases and additional potential launch opportunities starting in 2029,” Incyte CEO Hervé Hoppenot said in a release. 

The proposed purchase comes less than three months after Incyte bought out MorphoSys’ cancer med, Monjuvi. The two companies had already been collaborating, sharing development and commercialization costs in the U.S., but Incyte evidently wanted the asset all to itself. The same day Incyte absorbed Monjuvi, Novartis swept in to buy the rest of MorphoSys for 2.7 billion euros ($2.9 billion). 

Escient’s potential as a player in the inflammatory skin condition arena was clear early on, attracting Sanofi as an investor in two private financings. The company launched about six years ago in 2018, armed then with $40 million to enter the clinic. The raises climbed from there, with Escient raising $77.5 million in 2020, followed by $120 million in 2022. 

So far so good for the two main assets Incyte is acquiring. Escient reported in June 2023 that EP262 was well tolerated in a phase 1 healthy volunteers study, with a lower rate of treatment-emergent side effects than placebo. All adverse events in the study were mild. Previous preclinical data found that the med improved atopic-dermatitis-like lesions and inflammation. 

The companies expect the deal to close in the third quarter of 2024.