The merger was agreed after UCB made an offer of $2.1bn (€2bn) in cash for Ra Pharmaceuticals. The latter company was founded in 2008 and is based in Massachusetts, US.
Ra Pharma has developed a proprietary platform, ‘ExtremeDiversity’, which is capable of producing synthetic macrocyclic peptides. According to the company, this produces therapeutic candidates that combine the specificity of antibodies with the pharmacological properties of small molecules.
Its lead drug candidate is zilucoplan, a small molecule potential treatment for generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) that has progressed into Phase III trials. The readouts for the Phase III trial into the treatment of gMG are expected in early 2021.
The company is also exploring further indications in immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other tissue-based complement-mediated disorders.
In addition, Ra Pharma is already working on an extended release formulation of the treatment – the current mode of delivery is a once-daily, self-administered subcutaneous injection.
Jean-Christophe Tellier, CEO of UCB, added further detail as to the reasons behind the deal, “The acquisition will add to our strong internal growth opportunities – six potential product launches in the next five years, strengthening our neurology and immunology franchises with late- and early-stage pipeline projects.”
Further than this, the company noted that the combined portfolios of the two businesses could offer synergies in the outreach to patients with rare diseases, whilst Ra Pharma would provide UCB with a location in the thriving biopharma hub of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The transaction is expected to complete by the end of the first quarter, 2020.