Anadys Pharmaceuticals Surprises the Street, Gets Acquired by Roche for $230M

San Diego-based Anadys Pharmaceuticals was only valued at about $60 million yesterday by Wall Street, but it’s worth $230 million today.

The developer of hepatitis C drugs (NASDAQ: ANDS) said today it has agreed to be acquired by pharmaceutical giant Roche for $3.70 a share, a 256 percent premium over its closing price of $1.04 at the close of trading on Friday. The all-cash deal is expected to close before the end of the year, Anadys said.

The takeover was announced just a few days after Anadys (pronounced UH-nad-iss) released results from a mid-stage clinical trial of its lead hepatitis C drug candidate, setrobuvir (ANA598). The Anadys treatment, along with standard pegylated interferon and ribavirin, showed that after 12 weeks it was able to completely eradicate the hepatitis C virus in 78 percent of patients who were getting first-round therapy. That compared to 56 percent who did that well on the standard treatments alone. About 39 percent of patients on the Anadys drug had skin rashes, compared to 22 percent in the control group.

Anadys’ plan is for its antiviral compound, a non-nucleoside polymerase inhibitor, to be one of the key ingredients in a cocktail strategy that approaches hepatitis C much like HIV.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) and Merck (NYSE: MRK) have stirred interest in the field this year by winning regulatory approval of new protease inhibitors for hepatitis C, while Pharmasset (NASDAQ: VRUS) has generated excitement among investors for a different kind of antiviral, a nucleoside polymerase inhibitor. Roche has its own internal program as well with a nucleoside polymerase inhibitor, which scientists believe can be combined with the other drugs in development. About 170 million people worldwide are estimated to have hepatitis C infections, which leads to liver damage over a period of years.

“Since Anadys’ formation, our focus has been on driving forward research and development that would make a real difference to the lives of patients, especially those with hepatitis. With Roche’s considerable capabilities and experience in HCV, we believe this acquisition provides the best chance of success for the new potential treatments to reach patients,” said Anadys CEO Steve Worland, in a statement.

Roche’s global head of pharma research and early development, Jean-Jacque Giraud, added in a statement that Roche is hoping to put together a combination of treatments that will get rid of the standard interferon. That drug is known to cause flu-like symptoms that make patients feel miserable for months at a time, and often discourages people from seeking treatment.

“This acquisition augments Roche’s already strong HCV portfolio. Our aim is to offer physicians and hepatitis patients a powerful combination of therapies that bring us closer to a cure, even without the use of interferon,” Giraud said. “Anadys’ compounds provide additional modes of action that could lead to interferon-free treatment regimens without viral resistance.”

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