Epirus Biopharmaceuticals said today it will acquire Zalicus, in a deal that adds a pipeline of new product candidates and drug discovery platforms to the acquiring company’s focus on developing biosimilars. The value of the deal was not disclosed. 

Zalicus’ internal development pipeline, focused on pain drug candidates, includes Z944, an oral, state-dependent, selective T-type calcium channel modulator that has shown efficacy in multiple preclinical inflammatory pain models and in a Phase Ib experimental model of pain. T-type calcium channel modulators target low-voltage-activated, calcium channels, which are recognized as critical components in numerous cell functions and have been implicated in the frequency and intensity of pain signals.

Also in Zalicus’ pipeline is the preclinical candidate NaV 1.7 channel modulator program, also designed to advance lead candidates for potential clinical development in pain indications. The company has also partnered with Sanofi to develop Prednisporin™ (FOV1101). The topical ocular drug candidate contains low doses of the glucocorticoid, prednisolone acetate and the immunosuppressant cyclosporine A, and is designed to treat inflammatory ocular diseases such as persistent allergic conjunctivitis.

“Through this transaction, we gain access to additional financial resources as well as clinical trial experience in the rheumatoid arthritis space,” Amit Munshi, Epirus’ president and CEO, said in a statement. “Under the new company structure, we will continue to aggressively advance our pipeline of biosimilars, and address diverse global biosimilar markets through local partnerships,”

Epirus is currently developing a pipeline of biosimilars, including BOW015, a biosimilar to Remicade®, BOW050, a biosimilar to Humira®, and BOW030 a biosimilar to Avastin®.

The merger is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Epirus and Zalicus shareholders, and is expected to close this summer. The boards of both companies have approved the deal and recommended their shareholders do so as well.

Epirus announced the merger on the same day it disclosed closing on a $36 million series B financing round led by Livzon Mabpharm. Epirus will merge with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Zalicus in an all-stock transaction.

Based on Zalicus’ current level of net cash and accounting for Zalicus’ projected expenses in connection with the proposed transaction, Zalicus shareholders would own about 14% of the combined company, with the remaining 86% held by current Epirus stockholders if the merger were to close today, the companies said.

Once the deal closes, Zalicus will be renamed Epirus and operate under the leadership of Epirus’ management team, with Munshi serving as president and CEO of the combined company. Zalicus’ current president and CEO Mark H.N. Corrigan, M.D., will become chairman of the combined company's board, which will include representatives from the current Epirus and Zalicus boards.

This story has been corrected from an earlier version, which incorrectly referred to Zalicus' president, CEO, and member of the board Mark H.N. Corrigan, M.D., as the current chairman of Zalicus' board. GEN regrets the error.

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