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Tekmira to become Arbutus Biopharma
VANCOUVER, British Columbia & DOYLESTOWN, Pa.—Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation has announced that it will be changing its corporate name to Arbutus Biopharma Corporation, which will be a solutions company focused on a cure for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The name change, which is expected to go into effect on or before August 3, reflects the integration of OnCore Biopharma and Tekmira into a combined company, one that currently has the largest portfolio of (HBV) product candidates in the industry.
Tekmira announced its plans to merge with OnCore Biopharma in January, noting that the combined company would have a pipeline featuring assets that target the three pillars required for a curative HBV regimen: “suppressing HBV replication, reactivating and stimulating the host immune response directed at HBV and eliminating covalently closed circular DNA.” The transaction was executed via a merger, pursuant to which OnCore will merge with a wholly owned Tekmira subsidiary and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Tekmira. The merger was completed in March, gaining 99.5 percent of votes cast by Tekmira shareholders at a special meeting and representing 51.2 percent of company shareholders. In its wake, OnCore stockholders hold approximately 50 percent of the outstanding shares of Tekmira. The implied market value of the combined entity is approximately $750 million.
"We are very excited about the prospects for our integrated new company, which has undergone a transformation to a complete HBV solutions company,” Dr. Mark J. Murray, president and CEO of Tekmira, remarked in a press release. “The company possesses exceptionally strong and proven clinical development, scientific and commercial leadership teams and is very well resourced to execute against our goal of delivering a cure for chronic HBV. We believe that the market opportunity for a curative regimen for HBV is very significant, likely eclipsing the HCV market, and presents a meaningful opportunity for shareholders. We remain very confident in our potential to create value from our industry-leading strategy, team and pipeline dedicated to developing therapeutic solutions to cure HBV."
Tekmira is also establishing a discrete business unit that will manage, develop and maximize the potential of its non-HBV assets, including preclinical RNAi product candidates, IP and related know-how of the lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology platform as well as multiple strategic partnerships exploiting the LNP technology. Tekmira is suspending development activities related to TKM-Ebola, and is undertaking a joint re-evaluation of its development contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. Strategic alternatives for the compound will also be explored in the new unit.
The combined company's pipeline features Tekmira's Phase 1-ready HBV RNAi therapeutic and multiple HBV programs from OnCore, including OCB-030, a second-generation cyclophilin inhibitor focused on the suppression of viral replication, as well as stimulation and reactivation of the body's immune response. That compound is expected to enter human clinical trials in the second half of this year. Tekmira noted in a press release that it is “committed to having at least four HBV product candidates advancing in clinical development in 1H16,” adding that it plans to file INDs for three additional HBV product candidates next year, including a cccDNA formation inhibitor, a core protein inhibitor (also known as capsid assembly inhibitor) and a surface antigen secretion inhibitor.”