Acute lymphoblastic leukemia ALL-L2 blood smear under light microscopy
Credit: jxfzsy/Getty Images

In a move that will mainly strengthen its blood-related cancer portfolio, Sweden’s Sobi will merge with CTI BioPharma. Among other compounds, the deal nets Sobi JAK inhibitor Vonjo (pacritinib) for myelofibrosis, which obtained accelerated approval from the FDA in early 2022. Myelofibrosis has turned into quite a competitive market, which was valued at almost $800M in 2021. Incyte’s Jakafi (ruxolitinib) and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Inrebic (fedratinib), are both also approved in those patients.

“CTI represents a perfect fit for Sobi’s hematology franchise today, adding a powerful and highly differentiated new product that will make a significant difference for patients,” said Guido Oelkers, President and CEO of Sobi. “There is a large unmet medical need within myelofibrosis, in particular for patients suffering from thrombocytopenia who are inadequately treated by existing medicines.”

CTI’s shares soared 83% after the deal was announced.

Sobi (Swedish Orphan Biovitrum)’s focuses are hematology, immunology, and specialty care. They have products for hemophilia A (Elocta, efmoroctocog alfa) and B (Alprolix, eftrenonacog alfa), paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (Aspaveli, pegcetacoplan), primary hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (Gamifant, emapalumab), cryoptin-associated periodic syndrome (Gamifant, emapalumab), and more.

Myelofibrosis causes bone marrow fibrosis, splenomegaly and/or hepatomegaly, and other symptoms. It’s estimated that there are 0.47 cases of this type of cancer per 100,000 people worldwide. There are over 500 clinical trials ongoing in this disease.

Vonjo is an oral multi-kinase inhibitor targeting JAK2 and IRAK1, developed for the treatment of patients with myeloproliferative diseases including myelofibrosis. Unlike other JAK2 inhibitors, it does not inhibit JAK1, which has been associated with immune dysfunction and lymphomas, and may also worsen thrombocytopenia and anemia. CTI says Vonjo’s unique mode of action, inhibiting JAK2 and IRAK1 without inhibiting JAK1, may cause less splenomegaly and constitutional symptoms thereby reducing the risk of cytopenias and immune dysfunction associated with other JAK inhibitors.

The deal also nets Sobi Doptelet (avatrombopag), a treatment for adults with chronic immune thrombocytopenia who have not responded to earlier treatments. ICT says “Doptelet is the only oral TPO-RA [thrombopoietin receptor antagonist] with no food type restrictions, no liver monitoring, and no injections.” Sobi sees this as another product to expand the company’s position in rare hematology.

To complete the deal, Sobi, will initiate a tender offer to acquire all the outstanding shares of CTI for a cash purchase price of $9.10 per share, representing a premium of 95% based on CTI’s 30-day volume-weighted average price of $4.67. The Board of Directors of CTI has unanimously approved the transaction and recommended that the shareholders of CTI tender their shares in the tender offer.

“The acquisition of CTI is the latest in a series of transformative transactions Sobi has conducted to build its leading rare hematology franchise,” said Oelkers.

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