In January 2016, Shire Plc., an Irish specialty biopharmaceutical company, announced that it will combine with Baxalta Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that was formed as a result of spun off biopharmaceutical division of Baxter International, to become one of the global leaders in the rare diseases segment. The US$32 billion merger deal closed in June the same year and the merged company will be known as Shire. Benefitting from Ireland’s relatively low corporate tax rate, the new company aims at becoming a global leader in rare diseases and expects to deliver robust compound annual growth with over US$20 billion in annual revenues by 2020. While prior to the acquisition, Shire Plc. used to get 45% of its revenue from rare disease treatments, with the Baxalta deal, Shire expects its rare disease portfolio revenue to rise to 65% in the combined entity, clearly indicating the key focus of the newly formed company.
Shire Plc. M&A activity over the past three years helped the company fortify presence in the rare disease specialty, leading way to future synergies achieved through the Baxalta deal. In 2014, Shire Plc. acquired US-based Lumena Pharmaceuticals in a US$260 million plus deal. With this acquisition, Shire Plc. added late stage development compounds for the treatment of rare hepatic diseases and treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In 2015, the company forged another big takeover, a US$5.2 billion deal with NPS Pharmaceuticals, a rare-disease drug specialist. Via this transaction, Shire Plc. gained ownership of lifesaving drugs named Gattex and Natpara expanding its rare disease product portfolio in the gastrointestinal (GI) segment.
While adding new products to its product list, Shire Plc. growth strategy focused on building a portfolio predominantly in rare conditions. Another addition to the list was Cinryze, a medicine for hereditary angioedema (HAE) condition, which came with the buyout of ViroPharma, a US-based biotechnology company, for about US$4.2 billion in 2014. This was followed by acquiring US-based Dyax Corporation in 2015 for nearly US$6.5 billion adding DX-2930, an injectable to lower the rate of HAE attacks, to the list of rare disease drugs. Shire Plc. deals, which consistently focused on inorganic growth in the rare disease market, were complemented by organic development of a robust pipeline also within the rare disease scope.
Rare diseases drugs, often named as orphan drugs, have been among the key focus areas for many pharmaceutical companies over the past two decades, as such products bring in high profit margins and regulatory benefits coming from their development. The new company created through the Shire-Baxalta deal is therefore likely to benefit from the new combined rare disease drugs range. With the acquisition of Baxalta, Shire has a diversified portfolio with a combined rare disease platform in the fields of immunology, oncology, hematology, neuroscience, ophthalmic, GI, as well as LSDs and HAE. Baxalta brings a particularly valuable portfolio of treatments to the table, as even during the talks with Shire Plc. on the planned merger, in January 2016, it inked a deal of US$1.6 billion with Symphogen, a Danish biotechnology company. Through this agreement, for an upfront payment of US$175 million paid to Symphogen, Baxalta acquired exclusive rights to six cancer immunotherapies, focusing on growing area of cancer research called immuno-oncology. The Shire-Baxalta deal gives the newly formed Shire the opportunity to take these therapies through later-stage trials to the market.
Shire also plans to take advantage of Baxalta’s new manufacturing facilities. The new entity announced it would increase its research activity in the Baxalta’s R&D site in Cambridge, Massachusetts research campus, one of the hubs for biotech research that opened in December 2015. It would add another 100 to 200 jobs to the existing research team of 400 people at the center.
Shire, thanks to the synergies and elements brought in to the deal by both companies, has a promising starting point due to two key factors:
Strong financial tax profile: Despite the fact that Shire focuses in its operations on the US market, the company expects to lower its effective tax rate to between 16% and 17% by 2017. This can be achieved as the rare disease business is based in Ireland where tax policies are simpler and more accommodating.
Robust rare disease product portfolio: Shire has more than 50 clinical programs in different stages of development focusing on rare diseases. With more innovative products under its umbrella, Shire is likely to have a huge share in the orphan drug product market globally.
At present, only assumptions can be made about the future shape of the combined entity. With clear directions laid down of what the company management would like to achieve, it would be interesting to see whether Shire is able to accomplish the set mark of becoming world leader in rare diseases.