Baxter snaps up its hemophilia partner on the verge of a biotech breakup

Baxter BioScience President Ludwig Hantson, who will serve as CEO of its spinout

Baxter International ($BAX) is buying out collaborator Chatham Therapeutics for $70 million, planning to absorb the gene therapy specialist into its growing hemophilia R&D operation as it prepares to separate its drug and device businesses next year.

Under the deal, Baxter gets the full rights to BAX 335--a Chatham-partnered factor IX gene therapy designed to treat hemophilia B now in the midst of a Phase I study--and the technology behind it. Chatham's platform uses synthetic adeno-associated viruses to deliver gene therapies, and the biotech's pipeline includes a preclinical factor VIII program for hemophilia A and other potential candidates for the bleeding disorder, Baxter said.

Meanwhile, Baxter is gearing up to divide its sprawling med tech operation from its hemophilia-focused pharma unit. By mid-2015, Baxter expects to consolidate its dialysis-dominant device segment under the old company name and spin out its drug business under an as-yet-undisclosed moniker, installing bioscience boss Ludwig Hantson as CEO of the planned $6 billion biopharma.

As ever, Baxter's chief focus will be its hemophilia franchise, led by the top-selling Advate and boasting a pipeline of in-development treatments the company says present a $2 billion global opportunity. And that's where Chatham comes in, Hantson said, as the Chapel Hill, NC, biotech's viral delivery technology will help Baxter differentiate its approaches to hemophilia.

''Chatham's gene therapy platform technology offers the potential to redefine treatment of both hemophilia A and B,'' Hantson said in a statement. ''This technology will be highly complementary to our expanding pipeline of bleeding disorder treatments as we continue our pursuit of a bleed-free world.''

But Baxter's biopharma plans are not entirely hemophilia-dependent. The company has reached into hematology and oncology through partnerships with Onconova ($ONTX) and Cell Therapeutics ($CTIC), and Baxter has its eye on biosimilars, teaming up with Coherus BioSciences to develop a copy of Amgen ($AMGN) and Pfizer's ($PFE) blockbuster Enbrel with plans to file for FDA approval in 2016.

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