EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW – Adare Pharmaceuticals: A Virtual Acquisition is Possible
This past April, Adare Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a technology-driven specialty CDMO focused on oral dosage forms for the pharmaceutical, animal health, and OTC markets, in Lawrenceville, NJ, acquired the pharmaceutical technology company, Orbis Biosciences, Inc. of Lenexa, KS. The acquisition of Orbis will enhance Adare’s Pharmaceutical Technologies business, which provides turnkey product development through commercial manufacturing for global markets. Unlike traditional acquisitions made up of in-person meetings, this acquisition was completely virtual. The integration kick-off call, introductions, subsequent meetings, etc. were all done via Skype. It was not uncommon for these virtual meetings to last up to 4 hours at a time. Orbis, which was founded in December 2007, always intended to merge with a larger company. Its Precision Particle Fabrication® technology produces uniform particles in a range of sizes for use in injectable, otic, and oral dosage forms.
While the latter is Adare’s sweet spot, and Orbis’ oral technology platform will expand Adare’s offering in this space, the otic and injectable formulations offer additional market opportunities to Adare, which is privately owned.
Drug Development & Delivery recently spoke with Ajay Damani, Vice President of Pharmaceutical Technologies Business Unit, Adare, and Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Orbis, about how both companies will benefit from the acquisition, future product development, and the challenges of a virtual acquisition.
Q: Briefly describe Adare and Orbis and how the two came together. What are your commonalities? How will your differences benefit one another?
Ajay Damani: We are very excited to add Orbis to Adare. Adare has a suite of platforms primarily in the taste masking and controlled-release space for oral dosage forms. Adare’s technologies include: Microcaps® for taste masking via a solventor aqueous-based coacervation process; Diffucaps®, which incorporates release-controlling polymers or protective coatings onto drug-layered cores, granules, or crystals; and the MMTSTM Multi Mini Tablet System in which functional membranes are applied to 1- to 2mm cylindrical tablets to control release rates. We found Orbis had a wonderful complementary set of technologies. Both companies are focused on taste masking and controlled release; both are focused on pharmaceuticals and OTC market segments; both companies utilize intellectual property (IP) in formulation to drive product development. So there are a lot of commonalities. Orbis also operates in the injectable space, which is an interesting market opportunity for us because none of Adare’s technology platforms were able to address that before adding Orbis to the portfolio.
Maria Flynn: The companies have known each other for about 8 years. We saw a nice alignment between what both companies were doing. When Orbis was formed, it was always in the plan to merge into a larger company. We always intended to prove our technology, prove its application, develop IP, and integrate it into a larger company. We never had an eye toward building large-scale manufacturing capability. The integration definitely took longer than we expected, but everything always takes longer than you expect. This acquisition is a really good outcome and fulfills the vision of what the founders set out to do. We studied Adare’s history and saw a pattern of them being able to bring in different technology and establish deep expertise and market presence in those areas, and really industrialize in those areas, and that was attractive to Orbis.
Q: How will Orbis and Adare benefit from this acquisition?
Ajay Damani: This acquisition is really for our customers. This is about broadening the footprint that we can provide to our customers that they can utilize to develop products that meet their patients’ needs. We are looking forward to globalizing Orbis’ technology and add to the established technologies that Orbis has in place, and make it better known and available to customers around the world. Adare operates in 100 countries, and we want to make sure the world knows about what the technologies are and how they can be used for product development. We also see a big opportunity in thinking about commercial manufacturing. Orbis’ business model was really focused on early-stage product development and now, with Adare’s expertise in scale-up commercial manufacturing, we are excited to provide that as an additional capability for customers. This makes us more of an end-to-end solution
Maria Flynn: The global footprint that Adare has, and the deep expertise from formulation through manufacturing, will allow us to give our customers a complete turnkey offering. This is something we heard time and time again from customers and now we can do this for them as part of Adare.
Q: Please describe Orbis’ platform technology, why it was attractive to Adare, and what makes it unique.
Maria Flynn: Orbis provides enhanced technologies in a scaled, single-step manufacturing process. Its core Precision Particle Fabrication technology is the only technology currently on the market that can produce uniform particles in size ranges suitable for use in injectable, otic, and oral dosage forms. We can control how the drug releases from the particles. The platform technology is flexible, reproducible, scalable, and customizable to accommodate a range of active ingredients, including small molecules, peptides, and proteins. Orbis’ proprietary technology includes three platforms: Optimμm® for oral delivery; StratμmTM for injectable delivery for extended release; and Unisun® for otic delivery. Optimμm aligns with what Adare does in the oral drug space. We bring in new areas for Adare with the injectable Stratμm platform and the Unisun platform.
Q: What new therapeutic areas will Adare pursue with these technologies?
Ajay Damani: We typically think about our tech platforms as being therapeutic-area agnostic. We look at small molecules and protein/peptide targets. We see ourselves enhancing what is in our pipeline and developing new product formulations with the Orbis technologies. Adare has a long history of developing and supplying multiparticulate-based products into OTC markets around the world. We see high levels of synergy with our platforms. We are exploring Orbis’ oral platform in combination with our AdvaTab® OTC technology, and with our ParvuletTM technology, which is a platform we acquired last year that is targeted toward patients with dysphagia. We see a good opportunity in stand-alone technology, but also in combinations, including the Orbis multiparticulates with Adare’s existing technology platforms. Customers are looking for a good taste masking solution and are pleased by the fact that they can now actually evaluate not one, but two, potential approaches using either Orbis’ Optimμm or Adare’s microcapsule approach.
Q: What advice can you offer to other companies pursuing or undergoing an acquisition?
Maria Flynn: I compare this to heeding a mom’s advice about choosing your spouse or partner wisely. It’s a very individualized process. For Orbis, we needed to pick a company that had a real appreciation for differentiated technology, one that would value it and know what to do with it. Adare definitely does know what to do with it. We looked for alignment in mission and culture. The mission is what we are working to accomplish, and culture is how we accomplish that. Regarding mission, Orbis and Adare have really nice overlap. We talk about the same pain points for patients. Regarding culture, I have seen in the past how differences in culture can present problems when integrating acquisitions. In this case, we did a project together before the acquisition so Adare could “kick the tires” and see what our technology is like and how it differs from technologies they had in house. And it offered Orbis an inside look at what it would be like to work together. It’s important to be honest about what you are bringing to the table. Orbis needed a manufacturing pathway to offer clients, and we had technology platforms that were attractive to Adare.
Ajay Damani: We were grateful for being able to execute a deal like this in the middle of a global pandemic. We learned it is possible to have a virtual integration. It’s a new world, and we had to think creatively and differently about how to proceed on an integration plan and navigate through constraints such as travel restrictions. We have been diligent and proactive about being ahead of the curve. I believe our employees showed flexibility and resolve to make the connections we needed to make without seeing each other in-person, as is done traditionally. It is a testament to our teams. The only thing we could not do was go out to celebrate with a nice dinner after the closing. Nevertheless, we did have a virtual toast to the good things to come!
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