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Pfizer bets on Arena Pharmaceuticals’ promising bowel disease treatment in $6.7 billion deal

A person walks past the Pfizer Headquarters building in New York, November 9, 2020.

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Pfizer said on Monday it would buy drug developer Arena Pharmaceuticals for $6.7 billion in cash, to add a promising treatment candidate that targets diseases affecting the stomach and intestine.

The $100 per share offer is double the last closing price of Arena’s shares, which surged 92% to $95.90 in premarket trading.

This is the latest deal Pfizer has struck this year to expand its treatment pipeline. The company last month acquired immuno-oncology company Trillium Therapeutics for about $2.22 billion to strengthen its arsenal of blood cancer therapies.

Arena is developing several treatments for gastroenterology, dermatology and cardiology. Its lead candidate, etrasimod, is being tested in a late-stage study in ulcerative colitis, as well as a mid-to-late stage study in Crohn’s disease, both types of inflammatory bowel diseases that cause ulcers in the digestive tract.

Pfizer is also developing a treatment for ulcerative colitis, a chronic and inflammatory bowel disease that affects 3 million people in the United States. The candidate is currently in a mid-stage study, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

“The proposed acquisition of Arena complements our capabilities and expertise in inflammation and immunology,” Pfizer executive Mike Gladstone said, adding the company plans to accelerate the clinical development of etrasimod.

“(Arena) was our top pick for 2022, so Christmas came a bit early… We would not expect another bidder to come in at this point,” said Wells Fargo analyst Derek Archila.

Archila said he expects positive data from the late-stage trial based on etrasimod’s performance in an earlier study. He estimated peak sales of $2.5 billion, assuming the treatment is approved and is found to be more effective than Bristol Myers Squibb’s currently-approved Zeposia.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2022.

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