Vifor flies solo, plans spending spree as sister unit files IPO

Zurich, Switzerland

Vifor Pharma has become an independent company following the IPO of its sister unit, Galenica Santé. The split and stock listing gives Vifor money to pay off debt it accrued in its $1.5 billion (€1.4 billion) takeover of Relypsa and continue the accelerated period of investment it initiated to prepare for life on its own.

Prior to the split, Vifor was part of the larger Galencia Group. Now, health and beauty product and services unit Galencia Santé has struck out on its own, raising CHF 1.9 billion ($1.9 billion) through an IPO in its native Switzerland. The spinoff delivers a big financial boost to Vifor but leaves it to fend for itself without the safety net provided by its former sister company.

“Vifor Pharma Group has a net-debt free situation and is able to focus solely on pharmaceuticals and many attractive projects at a global level,” Vifor Executive Chairman Etienne Jornod said in a statement.

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Those projects, many of which Vifor acquired in anticipation of flying solo, will now benefit from CHF 850 million worth of investment over the next three years. Some of the cash will go toward moving pipeline projects toward pivotal data, while other tranches will enable Vifor to ramp up support for its already-approved drugs. Those commercial assets include Vifor’s rival to AstraZeneca’s floundering hyperkalemia drug ZS-9.

Zurich, Switzerland-based Vifor kicked off the period of checkbook pipeline and portfolio building in 2015 with a view to establishing a stable of assets capable of making it a viable independent biopharma. The centerpiece of the strategy—and drug that enabled Vifor to shorten the timeline to independence from an initial three to five years—was Mircera, a treatment for chronic kidney disease-associated symptomatic anaemia Vifor secured regional rights to from Roche.

With Mircera giving Vifor the makings of a commercial operation, the business development team began trying to stock the company’s pipeline with late-phase assets. In 2015, Vifor snagged rights to Relypsa’s then-experimental hyperkalaemia drug in certain markets, before returning to the dealmaking table the following year to acquire the whole company.

In between those transactions, Vifor picked up the rights to ChemoCentryx’s phase 3-ready anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis drug and Opko Health’s Rayaldee, which at the time was stumbling toward an FDA approval. Vifor later returned to ChemoCentryx to bag rights to another of its experimental candidates, chronic kidney disease asset CCX140.

The success of these drugs in the clinic and, potentially, the market will now dictate how Vifor fares as an independent company.

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