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Akebia accesses US dialysis patients in Vifor-Fresenius pact

May 16, 2017

Akebia Therapeutics (AKBA)  CEO John Butler is proving to be a prolific and savvy deal maker.

Monday after the close, Akebia announced a licensing deal with Vifor Pharma that will give Akebia the exclusive right to sell its anemia pill vadadustat to Vifor’s Fresenius Medical Care dialysis clinics in the U.S.

The new pushed Akebia shares up in after-market trading Monday. By 5.30 p.m. The shared were at $14.77, up 14.5% or $1.71

Vifor is also making a $50 million equity investment in Akebia at $14 per share. Akebia shares were trading for $12.94 at 2:30 pm EDT, ahead of the announcement.

Akebia is developing vadadustat as a potentially new oral treatment for anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. Two phase III studies of vadadustat in non-dialysis and dialysis kidney disease patients are underway.

Monday’s licensing deal is a nice win for Akebia because Fresenius is the largest dialysis provider in North America, serving approximately 40% of dialysis patients in the U.S.

Here’s how Akebia described the deal terms with Vifor:

 

This agreement is structured as a profit-sharing arrangement between Akebia and Vifor Pharma. It is subject to approval of vadadustat by the FDA and inclusion of vadadustat in a bundled reimbursement model, upon which Akebia will receive a $20 million payment from Vifor Pharma. Akebia’s revenue from the profit share and the milestone payment will be shared with Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Akebia’s U.S. collaborator. Akebia, in collaboration with Otsuka, plans to commercialize vadadustat in other dialysis organizations and centers and in the nondialysis market in the U.S.

With the Vifor deal for exclusive access to Fresenius dialysis clinics, Akebia’s CEO Butler has once again delivered on a promise to add value to the company in the months ahead of the vadadustat clinical trial readouts. Last month, Akebia expanded a U.S. development and marketing pact to include Europe and China. Last December, Akebia licensed Asian rights to the drug to Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma.

Vadadustat is designed to stimulate the production of red blood cells (and the oxygen-carrying molecule hemoglobin) by mimicking the body’s reaction to high altitudes.

Akebia still trades at a fraction of the market value of Fibrogen (FGEN)  , which is developing a similar pill.

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