Company steps into biologics segment with this deal and agrees to pay $439 million in milestones.

Alcon is taking over ESBATech for $150 million in cash at closing plus contingent payments of up to $439 million based on particular R&D milestones. The agreement covers rights to apply ESBATech’s technology to develop therapies for eye disorders.

Rights to the technology and products for applications outside of ophthalmology will be retained by the previous shareholders of ESBATech and spun off into a new company to be called Delenex Therapeutics. Besides ophthalmology, ESBATech has focused on rheumatology and respiratory indications.

The ESBATech acquisition expands Alcon’s research capability beyond small molecules to now include proteins, antibodies, and other large molecules. “Biotechnology offers significant growth opportunities in ophthalmology because it has the potential to deliver therapies with superior efficacy and safety relative to existing approaches,” says Sabri Markabi, M.D., Alcon’s svp of R&D and SMO.

“Combining ESBATech’s proprietary antibody-fragment technology with our expertise in ophthalmic formulation and capabilities in global development will strengthen Alcon’s leadership position in ophthalmology.”

ESBATech develops single-chain antibody-fragment therapeutics for topical and local delivery. The company has several stable and soluble single-chain antibody fragments in development. Its lead candidate, ESBA105, is a recombinant humanized scFv antibody fragment directed against human TNFα. It has reportedly advanced to Phase I and II studies for the treatment of inflammatory ocular diseases.

“This acquisition is part of our ongoing strategy to enhance access to multiple sources of technologies and compounds that bolster our total research platform in support of innovative products to treat eye disease,” notes Kevin Buehler, Alcon’s president and CEO.

The takeover comes on the heels of Alcon’s collaboration with AstraZeneca. The deal pairs Alcon’s ophthalmic research capabilities with AstraZeneca’s drug libraries.

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