Global Blood Therapeutics acquisition to boost Pfizer’s sickle cell pipeline

In a $5.4 billion deal that will boost its rare disease treatment business, Pfizer is buying the pioneer in treatments for sickle cell disease, Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT). The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) member companies announced the acquisition yesterday.

The press release notes that “SCD is a lifelong, devastating inherited blood disorder impacting millions of people worldwide, predominantly in populations of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent.”

“Today is an exciting milestone that accelerates GBT’s mission to discover, develop and deliver life-changing treatments that provide hope to underserved patient communities,” said Global Blood Therapeutics CEO Dr. Ted Love. He is one of just a few Black CEOs in the industry, and the Vice Chair of BIO’s Board.

As Good Day Bio underscored, Global Blood Therapeutics exemplifies the kind of startup growth that drives biotech innovation.

GBT’s Oxbryta received accelerated approval from the FDA in 2019. It is the first drug tareting the underlying cause of sickle cell disease, an inherited, lifelong disease that can cause extreme pain and serious complications.

Dr. Love previously told BIO that with a disproportionate impact on Black and African Americans, “sickle cell disease epitomizes healthcare inequity,” pointing out that working on this problem “has been incredibly rewarding.”

Dr. Love was a top executive at Genentech before guiding the successful development of smaller drug makers and eventually joining the sickle cell startup.

Global Blood Therapeutics acquisition will accelerate innovation for the sickle cell disease

As Pfizer noted in its press release, the Global Blood Therapeutics acquisition “complements and further enhances Pfizer’s more than 30-year heritage in rare hematology.”

“The deep market knowledge and scientific and clinical capabilities we have built over three decades in rare hematology will enable us to accelerate innovation for the sickle cell disease community,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The new deal will definitely boost Pfizer’s portfolio. GBT’s promising pipeline includes GBT021601, “an oral, once-daily, next-generation sickle hemoglobin (HbS) polymerization inhibitor.” and inclacumab, “a fully human monoclonal antibody targeting P-selectin.”

As we wrote back in June, the FDA gave both orphan drug and rare disease designation to both inclacumab and GBT021601. Taken together, the FDA designations ”provide market incentives for development and can facilitate priority review”.

Pfizer’s latest acquisition, “is part of a strategy to drive growth through diverse, high-potential therapies,” the company told Reuters. However, as Good Day Bio notes, “this is also what’s endangered by the drug price controls that passed the Senate Sunday and are expected to pass the House later this week.”

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