Biotest scoops up ailing Nabi's biologics unit

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antibody, European union

German firm Biotest has bought up Nabi Biopharmaceuticals biologics
division in a multi-million Euro deal, less than three months after
the unit was created following Nabi restructuring efforts.

Biotest is forking out $185m (€134m) for the biologics division, which will give the firm ready-made access to the US plasma protein market and set it up as a global leader in the hepatitis B hyperimmunoglobulin market. Through the transaction Biotest gains a five-year-old, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved plasma protein production plant with a fractionation capacity of 400,000 litres and a maximum output of 1.5 tons of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). As well as this, the German firm has also landed valuable supplies of plasma, generated by Nabi's nine US and EU approved plasmapheresis plants producing around 400,000 litres a year. Although Nabi used the plasma raw material generated by these centres to supply third parties, Biotest intends to use the majority of the material for its own products, thus securing its own future supplies. Through the acquisition, Biotest not only gains the facilities noted above, but also several products that could make a significant contribution to the company coffers. The most hyped product gained through the Nabi purchase is the hyperimmunoglobulin Nabi-HB, a polyclonal antibody treatment used in the prevention of hepatitis B. Nabi-HB is by far the top-seller in the US market according to Biotest, enjoying a market share of around 85 per cent. This nicely complements Biotest's own hep B treatment, Hepatect, which is the leading hyperimmunoglobulin in the EU market. According to Biotest, sales of Hepatect and Nabi-HB combined amount to around €60m. Nabi's biologics unit also provides its German buyers with a promising polyvalent immunoglobulin with "outstanding product characteristics​" and currently in Phase III trials. Biotest is particularly enthusiastic about this feature of the transaction, as the product is similar to its own immunoglobulin treatment, Intratect. Although Intratect is approved in a number of European countries and performing well, the treatment has yet to enter the US market. The "premium​" IVIG product that Biotest gains through the Nabi Biologics purchase has been tailored specifically to the US market and is expected to be launched there during the first half of 2010 - considerably earlier than Intratect would have made it to the US market. As well as the shortened time-frame, Biotest also benefits in terms of cost as there is no now need to invest in expansions to the firm's German production facilities that would have been necessary to adequately supply the US market with the Intratect product. Biotest also has high hopes for Nabi's Civacir, a polyvalent immunoglobulin containing antibodies to neutralise the hepatitis C virus, currently in clinical Phase IIb trials. Already granted orphan drug status in the EU and US, FDA approval is expected in 2012 with Biotest estimating US market potential "somewhere in the three figure million dollar range​." The lion's share of Biotest's pharmaceutical sales currently comes from the European market, but this latest move by the company should help firmly establish it in the immunoglobulin market on the other side of the Atlantic as well. The annual demand for immunoglobulin in the US is over 30 tons according to the company, which accounts for around a third of demand worldwide. The access Biotest has now gained to this rich market through the Nabi acquisition will therefore be a valuable asset, and comes "considerably earlier than planned,"​ according to a company statement. The transaction is subject to the approval of US merger-control authorities (expected next month), and approval from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals shareholders over the next two to three months. Biotest anticipates final closure of the transaction at the end of 2007.

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