UCB to Buy Fintepla Developer Zogenix, Expand Epilepsy Portfolio

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by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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Pharmaceutical giant UCB has agreed to buy Zogenix, the developer of Fintepla (fenfluramine), an oral add-on medicine that treats seizures associated with Dravet syndrome, a rare type of epilepsy.

The purchase, which could cost UCB up to about $1.9 billion, is a step toward expanding the company’s portfolio of epilepsy medications on the market.

Fintepla is approved in the U.S. and Europe to treat seizures associated with Dravet in patients ages 2 and older, and is under regulatory review in Japan.

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Its developer also is working to get Fintepla approved to treat seizures associated with Lennox–Gastaut syndrome and CDKL5 deficiency disorder, two other rare types of epilepsy.

“We are delighted to announce UCB’s proposed acquisition of Zogenix, recognizing the value of our lead medicine, both for the important role it has already begun to play for Dravet patients and their caregivers, and for its potential to help many others in the future,” Stephen J. Farr, PhD, president and CEO of Zogenix, said in a press release.

“Complementing UCB’s existing therapeutic offerings, the Zogenix acquisition provides UCB with an approved medicine for a life-threatening, rare infant- and childhood-onset epilepsy marked by frequent and severe treatment-resistant seizures, that are particularly challenging to treat,” said Charl van Zyl, the executive vice president of neurology and head of the Europe/international markets at UCB.

“We look forward to … working together to maximize the reach and impact of their medicines for the benefit of as many people as possible,” van Zyl added.

Fintepla is thought to reduce seizures by affecting serotonin signaling — a neurotransmitter that nerve cells use to send messages to neighboring cells — or by acting on the sigma-1 receptor, a protein found on the surface of nerve cells.

It is available in the U.S. only through a restricted distribution program. In Europe, it’s available through a controlled access program to prevent its misuse as a weight loss medicine and to ensure doctors know that those taking it receive regular heart checks.

Under the terms of the agreement, UCB will make an offer of $26 per share at closing, or a 72% premium to the company’s average share price a month before signing. The agreement also includes $2 per share if Fintepla gains EU approval by the end of 2023 for treating Lennox–Gastaut syndrome.

“We are excited for the potential opportunities ahead of us, working together to accelerate our mission and progress to improve the care of patients in need of new therapies,” Farr said.