Sanofi agrees to buy U.S. mRNA partner Translate Bio in $3.2 bln deal

Sanofi has agreed to buy U.S. biotech company Translate Bio in a $3.2 billion deal, as it bets on next-generation mRNA technology after setbacks in the COVID-19 vaccine race.

Sanofi said it would acquire all outstanding shares of Translate Bio for $38.00 per share in cash, representing a total equity value of about $3.2 billion for Translate Bio.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal, and the chief executive of Translate Bio and the U.S. company’s largest share holder have backed the takeover offer, Sanofi and Translate Bio said in a joint statement.

“Translate Bio adds an mRNA technology platform and strong capabilities to our research, further advancing our ability to explore the promise of this technology to develop both best-in-class vaccines and therapeutics,” said Sanofi Chief Executive Paul Hudson.

Translate Bio’s shares surged on Monday following the Reuters report. Sanofi’s offer of $38 represents a 30.4% premiumto Translate Bio’s August 2 closing price of $29.15.

GROWING INTEREST IN MRNA TECHNOLOGY

Sanofi’s bid for Translate Bio marks the latest interest by a large pharmaceutical company in mRNA technology, following itsproven success in COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

The messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) approach, an area of Translate Bio expertise, instructs human cells to make specific proteins that produce an immune response to a given disease.

Sanofi and Translate Bio have been working together since 2018 and joined forces last year to develop an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. They expect interim results of their PhaseI/II clinical trial in the third quarter.

The two companies are also looking at mRNA vaccines for several infectious diseases and in June started a Phase I trial evaluating a possible mRNA-based vaccine against seasonal influenza, building on Sanofi’s expertise as one of the world’s top flu vaccine makers.

TOUGH YEAR

Sanofi’s interest comes after a tough year for the French drugmaker after falling behind rivals with less experience in the COVID-19 vaccine race, a major blow to CEO Paul Hudson who joined the company almost two years ago.

Sanofi warned last year its traditional, protein-based COVID-19 jab developed with Glaxo Smith Kline showed an insufficient immune response in older people, delaying its launch until toward the end of 2021.

Hudson has also been under increasing pressure to reduce the company’s dependence on its star eczema treatment Dupixent to boost earnings. Earlier this year, it agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of shots made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

Translate Bio, set up in 2016, has not launched any drugs onthe market but its clinical-stage pulmonary product using its mRNA platform is being tested as an inhaled treatment for cystic fibrosis in a Phase I/II clinical trial.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley advised Sanofi on the deal, while Translate Bio’s financial advisers were Center view Partners and Evercore.

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