Roivant expands into metabolic diseases with $650M Poxel diabetes pact

Vivek Ramaswamy
Roivant CEO Vivek Ramaswamy. (Image: Roivant)

Roivant Sciences has struck a $650 million deal to acquire near-global rights to Poxel’s phase 3-ready Type 2 diabetes drug imeglimin. The deal ends Poxel’s long wait for a partner capable of shouldering the burden of a late-phase diabetes program and starts Roivant’s expansion into metabolic diseases.

Poxel leaned on private and public backers to take oral oxidative phosphorylation blocker imeglimin toward the start of phase 3. But the French biotech has always intended to find a partner capable of coping with the financial burden and logistical complexity of running a late-phase Type 2 diabetes program designed to secure approvals in the West. 

That has taken longer than expected, though. Poxel posted top-line data from a phase 2b trial that identified the dose to take into phase 3 late in 2014. The data lent credence to Poxel’s belief its drug increases insulin secretion while cutting excess glucose production, and seemed to set it up to strike a deal to get imeglimin into phase 3. Yet, the months ticked by without a large partner biting. 

Now, Vivek Ramaswamy’s Roivant has ridden to the rescue. The well-resourced private biotech is paying $35 million (€28 million) up front and taking a $15 million, 6% stake in Poxel in return for the rights to imeglimin outside of Japan, China and some other Asian countries. Roivant is also on the hook for up to $600 million in milestones.

Poxel will contribute $25 million to clinical trials of imeglimin but, crucially, Roivant will take on the heavy financial and developmental lifting, which were beyond the capabilities of the French biotech. 

Roivant plans to move the drug into a U.S. and European phase 3 program next year. Between now and then, the partners will manufacture study drug for the phase 3 trials and assess its efficacy in patients with comorbidities including chronic kidney disease.

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The acquisition of imeglimin marks the opening of another wing of Ramaswamy’s growing Roivant empire. The group is best known for its role in Axovant, the biotech that turned a castoff Alzheimer’s drug into a huge IPO before a failed phase 3 brought it crashing back to earth. But the company also oversees a clutch of other biotechs working in areas such as women’s health and dermatology.

Roivant also has $1.1 billion from last year’s SoftBank-led round. The company is using some of that cash to expand into metabolic diseases.

“This agreement represents the beginning of our focus on metabolic diseases and imeglimin, with its compelling and consistent data, will be a cornerstone program,” Ramaswamy, Roivant’s CEO, said in a statement.

Roivant’s lack of previous interest in diabetes meant it was low down the list of likely suitors for Poxel’s drug. Jefferies analyst Peter Welford called Roivant an “unexpected” and “left field” choice in a note dissecting the agreement. But added the company has the money and phase 3 experience Poxel needed from a partner.

Shares in Poxel rose 22% in early trading in Paris.