GENFIT to Acquire Clinical-Stage Biopharmaceutical Company, Expanding its Portfolio in Liver Diseases
GENFIT recently announced it has entered into an exclusivity agreement with a view to acquire all the share capital and voting rights of Versantis, a private Swiss-based clinical stage biotechnology company focused on addressing the growing unmet medical needs in liver diseases.
The acquisition of Versantis fits perfectly within GENFIT’s strategic vision of becoming a global leader in ACLF (acute-on-chronic liver failure) and is another critical milestone in the execution of GENFIT’s strategic plan. With this acquisition, GENFIT consolidates its position in ACLF via the integration of a clinically advanced asset presenting a solid scientific rationale supported by encouraging Phase 1b and preclinical data. GENFIT will also further expand its pipeline in other liver diseases characterized by high unmet medical needs with additional product candidates developed by Versantis. In addition, GENFIT’s know-how in ACLF will broaden, with the integration of Versantis’ team of experts, joining forces to accelerate both research and development.
ACLF is an underserved medical condition associated with short-term mortality (23% to 74% mortality at 28 days, depending on severity grade) and a significant cost of care. No drugs have been approved in this indication so far and incidence is growing at epidemic rates due to an aging population and a higher prevalence of diabetes, obesity, NASH, as well as alcohol and drug-induced liver injury. From a patient perspective, the ACLF syndrome is characterized by an abrupt life-threatening worsening of a pre-existing advanced chronic liver disease resulting in liver and extrahepatic organ failure (brain, kidneys, cardiovascular and respiratory). The cascade of multiple organ failures, including the development of a neuropsychiatric condition called hepatic encephalopathy (HE), together, lead to major complications in patients with ACLF, who can rapidly progress into coma and death. Every year, an estimated 137,000 patients are hospitalized in the US with ACLF, with very few therapeutic options. This represents an important unmet medical need.
As a pioneer in ACLF, Versantis has acquired a unique expertise, developing clinical-stage technology and assets aiming to improve ACLF patients’ outcomes.
Its main asset, VS-01, is a first-in-class innovative liposomal-based therapeutic product candidate currently in clinical development as a potential first-line therapy for the timely recovery of ACLF and UCD. If approved, it would be the first drug to use the intraperitoneal route to simultaneously support the liver, kidney and brain, the organs that most often fail in cirrhotic patients. VS-01 operates to clear toxic metabolites from the body following paracentesis, by extracting them from the blood into the peritoneal (abdominal) cavity, where they are captured by proprietary scavenging liposomes which are then drained from the body. A planned 60-patient, randomized and controlled Phase 2 Proof-of-concept trial of VS-01 in ACLF is expected to launch in the fourth quarter 2022. Efficacy and safety interim data are expected as early as the first half of 2024. The US FDA (FDA) granted VS-01 with the Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) in ACLF and in UCD and with the Rare Pediatric Diseases Designation (RPDD) for the acute treatment of UCD. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also granted VS-01 with ODD in acute liver failure. Given the unmet medical need and the current standard of care, GENFIT intends to seek approval of these candidates via expedited regulatory pathways.
VS-02 is a pre-clinical oral, small molecule drug candidate being developed for the chronic management of HE, considered an endemic disease worldwide. HE is a nervous system disorder brought on by advanced chronic liver disease. VS-02 will be developed as a unique colon-active formulation designed to minimize systemic absorption of ammonia and act where ammonia is primarily produced, while reducing glutamine levels in the brain.
GENFIT will also be able to develop TS-01, a unique point-of-care diagnostic device in prototype development for the at-home measurement of ammonia in the blood, the primary cause of HE. The deal should be completed during the fourth quarter 2022, following completion of the consultation of GENFIT’s employees representative bodies.
In parallel, GENFIT continues the development of its other program evaluating NTZ in ACLF, with a pre-IND meeting scheduled with the FDA in the coming weeks, following encouraging Phase 1 data.
Pascal Prigent, Chief Executive Officer of GENFIT, said “Versantis has an exciting portfolio that is complementary to GENFIT’s. We are also thrilled to welcome a talented team that has developed a strong scientific expertise in ACLF. We believe that significant synergies exist and that this acquisition will accelerate the development of several promising drug candidates in areas of high unmet needs.”
Jean-François Mouney, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of GENFIT, added “This agreement is a new chapter in the implementation of GENFIT’s strategy, which expands and diversifies our portfolio with assets presenting a significant market potential.”
Vincent Forster, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Meriam Kabbaj, PhD, Chief Operations Officer, both Board Members and Co-founders of Versantis, concluded “We are enthusiastic to be part of GENFIT, considering their experience in exploring severe and underserved conditions. We think that GENFIT’s knowledge and experience in the development of programs targeting complex liver diseases will be invaluable to accelerate and maximize the probability of success of our programs. We also are excited by the new opportunities offered by GENFIT’s research capabilities.”
The deal includes an initial consideration of CHF40 million due at closing, with contingent consideration of up to CHF65 million upon positive Phase 2 results for VS-01 and VS-02 and regulatory approval of VS-01. In addition, Versantis is eligible to receive 1/3 of the net proceeds resulting from the potential sale of the Pediatric Review Voucher of VS-01’s pediatric application by GENFIT to a third party, or 1/3 of the fair market value of this Voucher if GENFIT opts to apply it to one of its own programs. GENFIT will finance the base acquisition consideration from its current cash and cash equivalents. Based on our development plan for our current programs and for Versantis’ programs, the revenue expected from our partnership agreements, and accounting for transaction costs, we anticipate that funding of the Group’s corporate development is secured for approximately 2 years.
GENFIT is a late-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the lives of patients with severe chronic liver diseases characterized by high unmet medical needs. GENFIT is a pioneer in liver disease research and development with a rich history and strong scientific heritage spanning more than two decades. Thanks to its expertise in bringing early-stage assets with high potential to late development and pre-commercialization stages, today GENFIT boasts a growing and diversified pipeline of innovative therapeutic and diagnostic solutions.
Its R&D is focused on three franchises: cholestatic diseases, Acute on Chronic Liver Failure (ACLF) and NASH diagnostics. In its cholestatic diseases franchise, ELATIVE, a Phase 3 global trial evaluating elafibranor in patients with Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) is well underway following a successful Phase 2 clinical trial. Topline data is expected to be announced in the second quarter 2023. In 2021, GENFIT signed an exclusive licensing agreement with IPSEN to develop, manufacture and commercialize elafibranor in PBC and other indications. GENFIT is also developing GNS561 in cholangiocarcinoma following the acquisition of exclusive rights in this indication from Genoscience Pharma in 2021. In ACLF, a Phase 1 clinical program with nitazoxanide has been initiated in 2021, and GENFIT further expanded its ACLF pipeline in 2022 via the acquisition of Swiss-based clinical-stage company Versantis, with a Phase 2 ready program evaluating liposomes technology and a preclinical stage small molecule. As part of its diagnostic solutions franchise, the company entered into an agreement with Labcorp in 2021 to commercialize NASHnext, powered by GENFIT’s proprietary diagnostic technology NIS4 in identifying at-risk NASH.
GENFIT has facilities in Lille and Paris, France, and Cambridge, MA, USA. GENFIT is a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market and on compartment B of Euronext’s regulated market in Paris (Nasdaq and Euronext: GNFT). In 2021, IPSEN became one of GENFIT’s largest shareholders and holds 8% of the company’s share capital. For more information, visit www.genfit.com
Versantis is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on addressing the growing, unmet medical need in liver diseases. It was co-founded by Vincent Forster, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Board Member, Meriam Kabbaj, PhD, Chief Operations Officer, also Board Member, and Professor Jean-Christophe Leroux, PhD, Scientific Advisor. With a pipeline of drug and diagnostic product candidates to potentially address chronic and orphan acute indications, Versantis believes it can revolutionize the current standard of care for patients suffering from acquired and genetic hepatic deficiencies. Founded by scientists from ETH Zurich with entrepreneurial drive, Versantis has built a team and Board of seasoned industry executives with a proven ability to advance novel therapies from the idea stage into clinical development, regulatory approval, and commercial launch. The company is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, with an established wholly-owned US subsidiary, Versantis, Inc. For more information, visit www.versantis.com.
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