Working on a cure, Roche scoops up Anadys hep C drugs in $230M buyout

Just a few days after Anadys Pharmaceuticals touted positive data from a Phase IIb study of its lead hepatitis C drug, Roche has swept in to buy the San Diego-based biotech for $230 million in cash. The deal represents a 256% premium over Friday's close of $1.04.

Anadys ($ANDS) has had a long and difficult road advancing setrobuvir--originally ANA598--through the clinic. Bested at one point by a high placebo response, its latest study posted positive data as Anadys positioned the treatment as a future contributor to the cocktail therapies that patients will eventually rely on. But the mid-stage program still relied on interferon at a time developers are looking ahead to the day when a single daily pill will be able to hold the virus in check. That trend has put the spotlight on Pharmasset's ($VRUS) PSI-7977, making the developer one of the hottest plays in biotech.

Roche is keeping its eye squarely on the interferon-free approach as well. In a release, Jean-Jacques Garaud, head of Roche's early-stage R&D, noted: "This acquisition augments Roche's already strong HCV portfolio. Our aim is to offer physicians and hepatitis patients a powerful combination of therapies that bring us closer to a cure, even without the use of interferon. Anadys' compounds provide additional modes of action that could lead to interferon-free treatment regimens without viral resistance."

Anadys's shares had been so beaten down that Roche was able to make the play for a relatively low all-cash price, with no backend milestones to ponder about later on. And Big Pharma's interest in buying up hepatitis C drugs in the clinic could prove a boost for other developers operating in the same arena.

Vertex ($VRTX) has taken the lead in the hepatitis C market with its newly approved Incivek. And the biotech is working hard on its own next-gen products. Other public biotechs focused on future hep C treatments include Achillion, Idenix and Inhibitex.

- here's the press release