Newly acquired Alexion pays $100M for Rhythm's speedy review voucher

Just a few weeks after being snapped up by AstraZeneca, rare disease specialist Alexion has nabbed a priority review voucher from Rhythm that can speed up the approval of one of its late-stage meds.

Initially, we didn’t know who had snapped up that voucher from Rhythm when it first announced the sale yesterday, but in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today, Alexion, in the midst of a $39 billion buyout from AstraZeneca, was named as the new owner.

This comes after a spate of priority review vouchers changed hands between biotechs and pharmas, often costing $100 million-plus. The vouchers can shave months off a typical approval and thus add a few extra months of sales for companies. It’s also a quick cash grab for the firms that sell them, as Rhythm found out this week.

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Rhythm got the voucher after the FDA approval of its rare, genetic obesity drug Imcivree (setmelanotide) late last year.

Alexion’s current portfolio is largely tied to sales of one very high-priced drug for ultra-rare and rare diseases—Soliris (eculizumab)—which made almost $4 billion in sales last year but is approaching the end of its patent life.

The biotech has been trying to transition patients to a new, longer-acting drug called Ultomiris (ravulizumab), while simultaneously investing in a pipeline focused on rare and autoimmune diseases that at last count numbered 20 development programs with 10 launches forecast by 2023.

It’s not clear which program Alexion will chose to speed up with its new voucher.