Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Ironwood”) (Nasdaq: IRWD), a GI-focused healthcare company, and VectivBio Holding AG (“VectivBio”) (Nasdaq: VECT), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering novel, transformational treatments for severe rare gastrointestinal conditions, today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for Ironwood to acquire VectivBio for $17.00 per share in an all-cash transaction with an estimated aggregate consideration of approximately $1 billion, net of VectivBio cash and debt (the “Transaction”). The acquisition price represents a premium of 80% relative to the volume-weighted average share price over the previous 90 trading days. The Transaction was approved by both the Ironwood and VectivBio Boards of Directors and the Transaction Agreement was entered into on May 21, 2023. The Transaction is conditioned upon, among other things, the tender of shares representing more than 80% of VectivBio’s issued and outstanding shares and other customary conditions. Orbimed, Forbion and Versant Ventures, and VectivBio’s directors and officers, jointly representing 28.6% of VectivBio’s shareholdings, entered into tender and support agreements pursuant to which such supporting shareholders agreed, among other things, to tender their shares in the tender offer.
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, VectivBio is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for severe, rare conditions, including Short Bowel Syndrome with Intestinal Failure (SBS-IF) and acute Graft versus Host Disease (aGvHD). SBS-IF is a severe malabsorptive condition requiring ongoing I.V. administration of fluids and nutrients and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality, high economic burden, and an impaired quality of life. A substantial number of SBS-IF patients remain dependent on chronic parenteral support, and there is considerable unmet need in this patient population, which has an estimated addressable population of 18,000 adult patients across the U.S., Europe, and Japan1. aGVHD is an immunologically mediated disease occurring in individuals undergoing allogeneic hemopoetic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) where donor immune cells react against the host recipient. The gastrointestinal system is among the most common sites affected by acute GVHD, and severe manifestations of aGVHD of the gut portends a poor prognosis in patients after HSCT.
VectivBio’s lead investigational asset, apraglutide, is a next-generation, GLP-2 analog which has shown compelling data to date and is currently in Phase 3 with plans for topline readout by year’s end. Apraglutide has the potential to be the best-in-class GLP-2 therapy for the treatment of SBS-IF based on its potency and pharmacological properties, unique convenience of weekly dosing, and Phase 3 study designed to evaluate clinical benefit for both SBS-IF stoma and colon-in-continuity patients. If successful and approved, Ironwood believes apraglutide presents an opportunity to reach $1 billion in peak net sales.
This Transaction has the potential to strengthen Ironwood’s innovative portfolio and pipeline to advance the treatment of GI diseases and redefine the standard of care for GI patients. With its proven track record, Ironwood is well-positioned to leverage its expertise in clinical development, regulatory pathways, medical affairs and commercial execution to progress and maximize the potential value of apraglutide for patients, physicians and shareholders.
“The acquisition of VectivBio, including its compelling asset, apraglutide, is an ideal strategic fit with Ironwood,” said Tom McCourt, chief executive officer of Ironwood. “With the success of our blockbuster product, LINZESS, we have built a strong GI commercial function, healthy cash flow generation, and meaningful EBITDA. We are confident that with our GI expertise, commercial capabilities, and robust balance sheet, we are well-positioned to continue developing apraglutide, with the goal of getting it into the hands of the patients who need it the most and potentially generate significant and sustainable value for shareholders.”
“We are delighted to enter into this agreement with Ironwood to advance the development and commercialization of innovative therapies targeted at GI and rare diseases, which is the mission of VectivBio,” said Luca Santarelli, M.D., chief executive officer and founder of VectivBio. “Ironwood’s capabilities and established track record in GI make it the ideal company to bring apraglutide, if approved, to patients suffering from SBS-IF and other serious GI conditions. We believe this Transaction represents the best outcome for our patients and shareholders.”
Strategic and Financial Benefits
The acquisition of VectivBio and its lead investigational asset apraglutide provides a significant opportunity to accelerate the next growth horizon for Ironwood. The Transaction has the potential to deliver meaningful strategic and financial benefits, including:
- Strengthens and complements Ironwood’s portfolio. Today, Ironwood has a blockbuster asset in LINZESS, a strong GI commercial function, and an exciting pipeline of development assets. Ironwood believes that this transaction will further strengthen its portfolio and pipeline, with the potential to meaningfully accelerate its growth horizon. With approximately 18,000 addressable adult patients suffering from SBS-IF across U.S., Europe and Japan, apraglutide, if successfully developed, has significant revenue potential given its orphan drug designation for the treatment of adult patients with SBS-IF, compelling data to date, convenient weekly dosing and potential expansion into additional GI conditions, including aGvHD.
- Leverages Ironwood’s existing infrastructure. Ironwood has strong expertise in clinical development, regulatory pathways, and medical affairs, as well as a robust commercial infrastructure. Additionally, Ironwood also has existing relationships within the gastroenterologist community, and a knowledgeable specialty salesforce that currently addresses a significant portion of apraglutide’s potential prescriber base. Ironwood intends to leverage its proven expertise from LINZESS’s successful commercialization and ongoing lifecycle management to maximize the apraglutide opportunity.
- Supports long-term profitability and cash-flow generation. Apraglutide is a late-stage clinical asset with the potential to reach $1 billion in peak net sales if successfully developed and approved. The addition of apraglutide provides another high-growth potential revenue stream, diversifies Ironwood’s portfolio and pipeline, and potentially extends Ironwood’s growth horizon through the 2030s.
- Compelling financial profile. Ironwood anticipates the pro forma company will remain positioned to deliver sustained profits and cash flows. Ironwood expects to generate greater than $175 million in operating cash flows each year on a pro forma basis ahead of apraglutide commercial launch. The Transaction, assuming successful commercialization of apraglutide, is expected to be accretive to earnings per share beginning in 2026.
Transaction Terms and Closing
Under the terms of the Transaction Agreement, Ironwood will commence a tender offer to purchase all of VectivBio’s outstanding ordinary shares for $17.00 per share in cash. The closing of the tender offer will be subject to certain conditions, including the tender of more than 80% of the total number of VectivBio’s outstanding shares, the expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain shareholder approvals and other customary closing conditions (the “Offer Conditions”). VectivBio’s Board of Directors recommends that VectivBio shareholders tender their shares in the tender offer. The Transaction, which was approved by each company’s Boards of Directors, is expected to close in the second half of 2023, subject to the Offer Conditions. Assuming the closing of the tender offer and Ironwood holding at least 90% of the outstanding shares of VectivBio, Ironwood expects to acquire any shares of VectivBio not tendered into the tender offer through a merger of VectivBio with and into a subsidiary of Ironwood for the same per share consideration as will be payable in the tender offer.
Orbimed, Forbion and Versant Ventures, and VectivBio’s directors and officers jointly representing 28.6% of VectivBio’s shareholdings, entered into tender and support agreements pursuant to which such supporting shareholders agreed, among other things, to tender their shares in the tender.
VectivBio will covene an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders on June 26, 2023 for the purpose of obtaining certain shareholder approvals in connection with the Transaction.
Ironwood expects to finance the acquisition with cash on hand and funds drawn through a four-year, $500 million revolving credit facility entered in connection with the Transaction.
Ironwood expects to provide updated full year 2023 adjusted EBITDA financial guidance upon closing of the transaction.
Citi, J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, and Wells Fargo Securities, LLC are serving as financial advisors to Ironwood on the transaction.
Financing for the transaction has been provided by Citibank, N.A., Citizens Bank, N.A., JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., Royal Bank of Canada, and Wells Fargo Bank, National Association.
Latham and Watkins LLP and Advestra AG are serving as legal advisors to Ironwood.
Centerview Partners LLC and BofA Securities, Inc. are serving as financial advisors to VectivBio, and Cooley (UK) LLP and Homburger AG are serving as legal advisors to VectivBio.
Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: IRWD), an S&P SmallCap 600® company, is a leading gastrointestinal (GI) healthcare company on a mission to advance the treatment of GI diseases and redefine the standard of care for GI patients. We are pioneers in the development of LINZESS® (linaclotide), the U.S. branded prescription market leader for adults with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) or chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC). Under the guidance of our seasoned industry leaders, we continue to build upon our history of GI innovation and challenge what has been done before to shape what the future holds. We keep patients at the heart of our R&D and commercialization efforts to reduce the burden of GI diseases and address significant unmet needs.
Founded in 1998, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.
About VectivBio AG
VectivBio is a global clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on transforming and improving the lives of patients with severe rare conditions. Lead product candidate apraglutide is a next-generation, long-acting synthetic GLP-2 analog being developed for a range of rare gastrointestinal diseases where GLP-2 can play a central role in addressing disease pathophysiology, including short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure (SBS-IF) and Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease (aGVHD).
VectivBio is also advancing its modular, small molecule CoMET platform to address a broad range of previously undruggable Inherited Metabolic Diseases (IMDs). CoMET leverages innovative chemistry, based on a proprietary stabilized pantetheine backbone, to restore fundamental cellular metabolism in pediatric populations with IMDs characterized by a deficit of energy metabolism caused by the depletion of functional Coenzyme A (“CoA”). Candidates from the CoMET platform are initially being evaluated in methylmalonic acidemia (MMA), propionic acidemia (PA), and other organic acidemias.
Apraglutide is an investigational new drug that is a next-generation, long-acting synthetic GLP-2 analog being developed for a range of rare gastrointestinal diseases where GLP-2 can play a central role in addressing disease pathophysiology, including short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure (SBS-IF) and Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease (aGVHD).
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