Alcon (NYSE:ACL) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ESBATech AG, a Swiss biotechnology company. Alcon will pay ESBATech shareholders $150 million in cash at closing, plus contingent payments of up to $439 million based upon the achievement of future research and development milestones that would be expected to create value for Alcon. ESBATech is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that has been developing a pipeline of proprietary single-chain antibody fragment therapeutics for topical and local delivery for safe and convenient therapy.
“Biotechnology offers significant growth opportunities in ophthalmology because it has the potential to deliver therapies with superior efficacy and safety relative to existing approaches,” said Sabri Markabi, M.D., Alcon’s senior vice president of research and development and chief medical officer. “Combining ESBATech’s proprietary antibody fragment technology with our expertise in ophthalmic formulation and capabilities in global development will strengthen Alcon’s leadership position in ophthalmology.”
ESBATech has advanced its antibody fragment technology to preclinical and clinical stages in the eye for various diseases. The company has several stable and soluble single-chain antibody fragments in development, with its most advanced product candidate progressed into Phase I and II studies relating to the treatment of inflammatory ocular diseases.
“I am very proud of what our team has achieved in proving clinically that our platform delivers therapeutic antibody fragments with required drug-like properties,” said Dr. Dominik Escher, chief executive officer of ESBATech. “All of us at ESBATech are excited to join with Alcon to advance this technology further and to develop products to treat serious eye diseases so that more patients can see better.”
The agreement to acquire ESBATech includes all rights to its technology for therapeutic application to the eye, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, dry eye and uveitis. Substantially all of the employees of ESBATech will join Alcon upon the finalization of the acquisition. The rights to the technology and products for application outside of ophthalmology will be retained by the previous shareholders of ESBATech and spun off into a separate new company, Delenex Therapeutics AG.
“This acquisition is part of our ongoing strategy to enhance access to multiple sources of technologies and compounds that bolster our total research platform in support of innovative products to treat eye disease,” said Kevin Buehler, Alcon’s president and chief executive officer. “We welcome Dr. Escher and his highly qualified team of biotechnology experts who will become the foundation of Alcon’s biologics capability in the future.”
As confirmation of the strategy to enhance the Alcon research platform, this biologics capability acquisition comes on the heels of Alcon’s recent announcement of an agreement with AstraZeneca that pairs Alcon’s ophthalmic research capability with AstraZeneca’s rich drug libraries in a collaborative effort to treat eye diseases. The ESBATech acquisition expands Alcon’s research capability outside of small molecules to the promising field of proteins, antibodies and other large molecules.