Incyte to acquire Medicxi-backed Villaris Therapeutics to tackle vitiligo


Incyte has entered into an agreement to acquire Villaris Therapeutics, an asset-centric biopharmaceutical company seeded by Medicxi and focused on the development of novel antibody therapeutics for vitiligo. 

The deal could eventually be worth upwards of $1.4 billion.

Its lead asset, auremolimab (VM6), an anti-IL-15Rβ monoclonal antibody (mAb), is expected to enter clinical development in 2023.  

Under the terms of the agreement, Incyte will acquire Villaris Therapeutics and the exclusive global rights to develop and commercialize auremolimab for all uses, including in vitiligo and other autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Incyte will make an upfront payment of $70 million, and Villaris shareholders will be eligible for up to $310 million upon achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones, as well as up to an additional $1.05 billion in commercial milestones on net sales of the product. 

“This acquisition complements our current portfolio, providing us the opportunity to further enhance treatment options for people with vitiligo, leveraging the expertise we established in the dermatology space through our successful launch of Opzelura (ruxolitinib) Cream,” said Hervé Hoppenot, chief executive officer of Incyte. 

“People living with immune-mediated dermatologic diseases like vitiligo face significant challenges and we are committed to developing novel therapies like auremolimab, which may address these unmet needs.”

‘Driving forward’

John E. Harris, Professor and Chair of Dermatology at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School and founder of Villaris Therapeutics, said: “I am really excited by the potential for auremolimab to treat vitiligo and other diseases with significant unmet need, and to see that it will now be driven forward with the capabilities and resources of Incyte. Back in 2019, I was very pleased to partner with Michèle Ollier and the Medicxi team to create Villaris as a single-purpose, asset-centric company with a laser focus on developing auremolimab for people with vitiligo who are in desperate need of better treatments. This next phase of development with Incyte will help to make that a reality.” 

Nick Williams, partner at Medicxi, said: “Auremolimab has the potential to transform the lives of people living with vitiligo, and we are extremely excited to be partnering with Incyte, a pioneering company in this indication with the capabilities to explore the broader potential of auremolimab.”

The agreement is subject to clearance by the U.S. antitrust authorities under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act and will become effective as soon as this condition has been met.

About auremolimab

Auremolimab (VM6) is a novel, ultra-humanized, anti-IL-15Rβ (CD122) antibody designed to target and deplete autoreactive resident memory T cells (TRM) that has demonstrated efficacy as a treatment for vitiligo in preclinical models. IND-enabling studies are currently under way, and clinical development is expected to begin in 2023.

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