OPKO Health Acquires Prolor Biotech for $480 Million

Prolor Biotech develops proprietary versions of proteins already approved for medical therapy, such as human growth hormone, and helps with commercialization.

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The Israeli biomedical company Prolor Biotech has been sold to OPKO Health for $7 a share, giving the company a value of $480 million, both companies announced Wednesday. Although a final agreement was signed, the transaction is still subject to certain conditions, including the approval from the shareholders of both companies.

Prolor Biotech develops proprietary versions of proteins already approved for medical therapy, such as human growth hormone, and helps with commercialization. The company's purpose is to create superior, longer-acting versions of existing therapies, such as a growth hormone that could be administered by injection once a week or every two weeks rather than having to be administered daily.

OPKO Health sells medicines and diagnostic products for the early detection of Vitamin D deficiency, prostate cancer, and Alzheimer's Disease (in collaboration with the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb). It also has three drugs that are currently in Phase 3 clinical development.

The CEO and chairman of OPKO Health is none other than Phillip Frost, who was also the chairman of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Prolor Biotech.
Teva had held discussions over the acquisition of Prolor, but those talks ceased around six weeks ago.

Teva's interest in Prolor fits in with the new strategy presented by its CEO Jeremy Levin in December 2012 of the development of "new therapeutic entities" – drugs based on the high-value generic products of Teva, and also on its unique products.

Small peptide chain, big change in efficacy

Teva estimates that this new strategy has an attractively low-risk profile, as it deals with improved versions of existing medications, thereby reducing the regulatory and development risks.

Prolor might have been suitable as it has development and commercialization rights it received from Washington University in St. Louis on Carboxyl Terminal Peptide (CTP) technology. This technology enables a short protein chain (peptide) to be attached to existing medical proteins, extending their life span without additional toxicity and without reducing their biological activity.

The basis for this technology was the university's discovery that the difference between the female hormone hCg, which has a two-day life-span, and LH, another female hormone that is almost identical in structure and only has a 20-minute life span, is the Carboxyl Terminal Peptide.

Prolor estimates that CTP will allow a reduction in the number of injections that are required to achieve a therapeutic effect, or the increase of the effect in each dose of the drug, therefore increasing the chances of successful treatment and reducing the costs of developing new drugs.

There is already a company that has received authorization to market a drug that uses CTP. Merck developed the drug Elnova, which incorporates CTP technology to make an improved version of the FSH hormone used to treat infertility.

Prolor successfully completed four clinical trials of its leading product, hGH-CTP. A Phase II trial among children who suffer from growth hormone deficiency is currently being held, and a Phase III trial in adults who suffer from growth hormone deficiency is scheduled to commence in the second quarter of 2013. The experiments showed that hGH-CTP has the potential to reduce the frequency of necessary injections from once a day to once a week.

A laboratory worker.Credit: Bloomberg

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