Vifor pays $110M upfront for EU rights to late-phase renal disease drugs

(By A. Tigelaar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Vifor Pharma has secured the rights for a pair of late-phase renal disease drugs. The deals, which see Vifor and its part-owned franchise hand over $110 million (€97 million) in cash upfront, continue a period of quickfire checkbook pipeline building for the company, which is trying to create a portfolio of near- and long-term prospects ahead of a planned split from its parent company.

Zurich, Switzerland-based Vifor is paying $60 million in cash to ChemoCentryx ($CCXI)--and making a $25 million equity investment in the company--in exchange for the rights to its Phase III-ready renal disease drug in Europe and some other ex-U.S. markets. Days before that deal was unveiled, Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma (VFMCRP), a partly owned franchise of Vifor Pharma, handed Phillip Frost’s Opko Health ($OPK) $50 million in exchange for the rights to another renal drug that is nearing approval.

The deals come 11 months after Galencia, the Swiss pharmacy network that owns Vifor, signalled its intent to accelerate the process of preparing the unit for independence. Galancia initially set a three- to five-year time frame for the preparations but rethought its plan after securing a deal with Roche ($RHHBY) for the iron deficiency drug Mircera. With Mircera giving Vifor the backbone of a business, the company has spent the past year padding out its pipeline through deals. VFMCRP paid Relypsa ($RLYP) $40 million upfront in August for rights to Patiromer FOS outside of the U.S. and Japan.

VFMCRP and Relypsa filed a marketing submission in Europe for the treatment for elevated blood potassium levels in April. Vifor and VFMCRP, a 55-45 joint venture between Galencia and Fresenius Medical Care, are hoping their newly licensed assets will follow closely behind Patiromer FOS on the route to market. Opko has an October PDUFA date for a decision regarding approval of Rayaldee in the U.S. And VFMCRP plans to work with Opko to prepare the data on the treatment for secondary hyperparathyroidism for submission to the European Medicines Agency.

CCX168, the drug Vifor licensed from ChemoCentryx, is a little further from market. ChemoCentryx posted data from a Phase II trial of the drug in January. The Californian biotech’s stock slid following the release of the data. A Phase III trial in patients with the rare autoimmune inflammatory disorder anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis is scheduled to start later this year

- read the Vifor statement (PDF)
- here’s the VFMCRP release
- and FierceBiotech’s take