Akebia and Keryx Merge to Become Leader in Therapies for Chronic Kidney Disease
By Alex Keown
Shares of Akebia Therapeutics are up more than 10 percent in premarket trading after the company announced it struck a merger agreement with Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. to create a company expected to be a leader in the development of renal disease therapies.
Shares of Keryx are up less than 2 percent on the news this morning after the boards of both companies agreed unanimously to merge. The new company, which will be known as Akebia Therapeutics, Inc., will have an implied pro forma equity value of approximately $1.3 billion.
Akebia Therapeutics will focus on developing therapies for chronic kidney disease (CKD). The company’s platform will be built on Keryx’s Auryxia (ferric citrate), which has been approved to treat dialysis-dependent CKD patients for hyperphosphatemia and non-dialysis dependent CKD patients for iron deficiency anemia (IDA). A second CKD treatment could be forthcoming. Akebia’s vadadustat is in Phase III trials for CKD patients with anemia. If approved, vadadustat has the potential to address the needs of an estimated 1.7 million patients who are non-dialysis dependent and 500,000 dialysis-dependent patients in the United States, the companies said. The companies believe that Auryxia and vadadustat, if FDA-approved, have the potential to deliver an all-oral treatment approach for patients with anemia due to CKD, according to this morning’s announcement.
In addition to Auryxia and vadadustat, the combined company said it has the “potential to offer therapeutic options to patients across all stages of CKD, including non-dialysis dependent and dialysis-dependent patients.” Additionally, the new Akebia Therapeutics also has potential to “become a partner of choice” for other companies developing treatments for renal disease.
The new company will be helmed by John P. Butler, president and chief executive officer of Akebia. Jason A. Amello, Akebia’s Chief Financial Officer, is expected to serve in the same capacity on the management team of the combined company. Keryx will appoint the chairperson of the Board of Directors of the combined company, the companies said.
Butler, who formerly led Genzyme Corporation’s renal business, said the strategic and financial drivers of the merger are “compelling.” He said the new combined company will have an expanded and highly complementary nephrology portfolio.
“Combining Akebia and Keryx creates a leading renal company and provides it with the infrastructure to maximize the market potential of Auryxia and build launch momentum for vadadustat in the United States, subject to FDA approval. I look forward to leading the talented teams of both Akebia and Keryx as we work to establish new standards of renal care and unlock growth potential for shareholders,” Butler said in a statement.
Jodie Morrison, the interim CEO of Keryx, agreed with Butler’s assessment. Morrison said the merger will benefit stakeholders in both companies.
Under terms of the agreement, Keryx shareholders will receive 0.37433 common shares of Akebia for each share of Keryx they own. The exchange results in implied equity ownership in the combined company of 49.4 percent for Akebia shareholders and 50.6 percent for Keryx shareholders on a fully-diluted basis, the companies said. The merger is expected to be finalized by the end of 2018.