By Ben Glickman

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has agreed to acquire Alpine Immune Sciences for $4.9 billion in cash, bolstering its portfolio on kidney diseases as deals in biotechnology continue to heat up.

The companies said on Wednesday that Vertex would pay $65 a share for Alpine. Net of expected cash to be acquired the deal is valued at around $4.6 billion.

Alpine's lead candidate is being evaluated as a potential treatment for IgA nephropathy, a chronic kidney condition that can lead to end-stage-renal disease, and affects about 130,000 people in the U.S., the companies said. The molecule, called povetacicept, is expected to enter Phase 3 development in the second half of this year.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024, the companies said.

The deal represents a premium of about 67% on Alpine's Tuesday closing price. Shares gained 21% on Wednesday following earlier reports of the deal, and were recently up 36% in the late session.

Vertex has had several key developments lately. In March, the company received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to study its VX-407 drug candidate in certain patients with the most commonly inherited kidney disease, called autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

The Boston-based company's drug Casgevy, a treatment for sickle-cell disease, was approved by regulators in December. Casgevy is the first medicine using Crispr gene-editing technology to receive approval, and could drive a boom in sales for Vertex as it is approved in new areas.

The company also is developing a non-opioid painkiller, which has returned positive results in clinical trials.

Buying Alpine puts Vertex in competition on treatments for IgA nephropathy, which has been a hot space in biotechnology recently, according to Cantor Fitzgerald analysts Olivia Brayer and Gugan Raghuramani.

The deal may be a sign Vertex is looking to add to its portfolio given the risk of its other high-profile drug candidates, the analysts say, and they wouldn't be surprised if the company does another deal in the next six to 12 months.

Vertex's acquisition of Alpine is the latest sign that deals for biotechnology companies are heating up. Immunotherapy company Harpoon Therapeutics and cancer treatment developer Ambrx are among the smaller companies which have been acquired so far this year by pharmaceutical behemoths.

Novo Nordisk, the company behind weight-loss drug Wegovy, in late March bought out Germany-based Cardior Pharmaceuticals for about $1.1 billion.

Write to Ben Glickman at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-10-24 1724ET