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Incyte closes $750 M deal for Escient Pharmaceuticals

Katie Tabeling
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Incyte has closed the deal on a $750 million pharmaceutical company with two drug treatments in the development phase in its portfolio. | DBT FILE PHOTO

WILMINGTON Incyte Corp. has completed the $750 million acquisition of San Diego-based Escient Pharmaceuticals, granting the Wilmington company yet another addition to its growing portfolio this year.

The deal grants Incyte access to Escient’s small molecular therapeutics targeting neurosensory inflammatory disorders. Specifically, there are two drug candidates that show promise:  EP262 and EP547. Both treatments build off its rapidly accelerating drug portfolio for non-cancer, autoimmune diseases that first started when the Wilmington company’s researchers discovered that Jakafi, known generically as ruxolitinib, was effective in treating non-cancer, autoimmune diseases, including vitiligo and eczema.

“The acquisition of Escient bolsters our inflammation and autoimmunity portfolio and our commitment to creating innovative solutions that address the urgent needs of patients living with severe inflammatory diseases,” Inyte CEO Hervé Hoppenot said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to continue the work started by the Escient team and accelerate the clinical development of these promising therapies.”

When the deal was finalized, Incyte gained two drugs well in the approval and development pipeline. EP262 is a first-in-class treatment that has the potential to treat a broad range of inflammatory skin conditions, including chronic inducible urticaria and chronic spontaneous urticaria. 

Urticaria is a skin condition that causes the skin to break out in itchy hives and can last up to six weeks. Thousands of patients have the condition. But about half a million patients with chronic inducible urticaria and 1 million patients with chronic spontaneous urticaria cannot control it with antihistamines. EP262 is also being studied as a potential treatment for and atopic dermatitis, which is a type of eczema that causes dry skin mostly in children. 

The other candidate, EP547, is in two phase 1 trials to treat itching associated with liver diseases. Pablo Cagnoni, president and head of research and development at Incyte,told the Delaware Business Times that Incyte’s research and development teams have focused on targeting triggers of inflammation, like mast cells, that may be able to help patients with dermatologic conditions while providing rapid symptom relief and long-term disease control.

“Dermatology and IAI represent a significant opportunity for Incyte – there is a large medical need for patients with a number of immune-mediated skin conditions,” Cagnoni said.” For example, prior to the FDA approval of our topical medication called Opzelura cream last year, there were no approved therapies for the more than 1.5 million vitiligo patients in the United States.”

 In addition to vitiligo, Opzelura is also approved for patients with atopic dermatitis and in clinical studies for a number of other indications. Other medicines in Incyte’s pipelines help leverage its infrastructure to give it a stronger foothold, Cagnoni added.

The acquisition of Escient Pharmaceuticals came roughly three months after Incyte bought out cancer medication Monjuvi from MorphoSys. Both companies were collaborating on development and commercialization costs in the United States before Incyte bought the drug in February.

Cagnoni told DBT that Incyte has been working on finding opportunities to diversify its pipeline and boost revenues by 2025, and both the MorphoSys and Escient deals fit into that picture.

“Our views on business development have not changed. We are focused on identifying opportunities and medicines in oncology and inflammation and autoimmunity that are synergistic to our existing portfolio, have the potential to diversify revenue and enhance our top and bottom line. Following the Escient acquisition, we will maintain a strong and increasing cash position and continue to look for other assets to add to our portfolio,” he said.

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