Tekmira Pharmaceuticals has agreed to acquire OnCore Biopharma to focus on developing treatments for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection by combining multiple therapeutic approaches.

The deal will be carried out as a merger in which OnCore will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Tekmira. Upon closing of the transaction, OnCore stockholders will own about 50% of the total number of outstanding shares of Tekmira. The implied market value of the combined entity is approximately $750 million.

The transaction brings together Tekmira's Phase I-ready HBV RNAi therapeutic and OnCore's multiple HBV programs. TKM-HBV, Tekmira’s RNAi therapeutic designed to eliminate HBV surface antigen expression, is on track to begin clinical trials in the first quarter of 2015. OCB-030, OnCore’s second-generation cyclophilin inhibitor focused on the suppression of viral replication, as well as stimulation and reactivation of the body's immune response, is anticipated to enter clinical trials in the second half of this year.

The combined company said its pipeline is expected to target three pillars necessary to develop eight unique drug candidates to be used in combination to develop a curative regimen for HBV, including assets focused on suppressing HBV replication, reactivating and stimulating the host immune response directed at HBV, and eliminating covalently closed circular DNA.

“We believe that the merger between Tekmira and OnCore has the potential to transform the HBV treatment landscape by bringing together the technologies and science needed to eradicate the virus and develop a cure for this debilitating and deadly disease,” said Dr. Mark J. Murray, CEO of Tekmira. “Our new company has the potential to advance multiple, highly active, complementary agents into the clinic in rapid succession, and create an HBV therapeutics powerhouse, thereby potentially offering significant benefits to the global medical community working to improve the lives of HBV patients. Importantly, we also believe this transaction has the potential to create significant value for our shareholders.”

Additionally, the combined management team and board of directors plan to continue to move forward with Tekmira's non-HBV assets and collaborations including TKM-PLK1, currently in Phase II in multiple indications, and TKM-Ebola, which is expected to enter Phase II in West Africa in early 2015.

Also of value to the new company is Tekmira’s lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology. In November 2014, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals licensed the technology for delivery of DCR-PH1, its investigational drug for the rare liver disorder primary hyperoxaluria type 1. The deal is expected to generate up to $24.5 million, plus royalties, for Tekmira.

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