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Oral Drug Delivery Company Acquired in $1.8B Deal

Investor screen

(Stephen Dawson, Unsplash)

6 Nov. 2020. Emisphere Technologies, developers of a process that makes biologic drugs available as oral medicines is being acquired by drug maker Novo Nordisk. Shareholders in Emisphere Technologies Inc., based in Roseland, New Jersey, will receive $1.35 billion from Novo Nordisk A/S in Bagsværd, Denmark, which is also paying out $450 million for Emisphere’s royalty obligations in a separate transaction.

Emisphere and Novo Nordisk, a global pharmaceutical company specializing in diabetes drugs, are hardly strangers. One of Novo Nordisk’s leading products, semaglutide, marketed as the brand name Rybelsus, uses Emisphere’s oral drug delivery technology. Semaglutide is part of a class of drugs known as glucagon-like peptide 1, or GLP-1 receptor agonists that activate GLP-1 peptides to promote production of insulin in the pancreas. The two companies began collaborating in 2007, with Novo Nordisk licensing Emisphere’s technology for semaglutide.

Emisphere says its technology called Eligen is designed to enhance absorption of therapeutic molecules of all sizes without altering their chemical form, properties, or effects. Eligen, says the company, uses agents made from salcaprozate sodium that act as carriers of drug molecules through cell membranes. Emisphere says it has a library of some 4,000 such carriers that can be adapted for converting injected drugs into capsules or tablets, as well as inhaled, intervaginal, or rectal-administered drugs. The technology, says Emisphere, can be applied to drugs based on proteins, peptides, and nucleic acids.

Under the agreement, Novo Nordisk is paying Emisphere stockholders $7.82 a share for its nearly 171 million shares, or about $1.35 billion, a premium of 17 percent over its average share price for the past five trading days. Emisphere shares trade over-the-counter, and not on a major exchange. In addition, Novo Nordisk is acquiring royalty-stream obligations owed to private equity company MHR Fund Management, a major shareholder in Emisphere, for another $450 million.

Novo Nordisk plans to apply Emisphere’s drug delivery technology to a broader range of biologic products. Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo Nordisk’s chief scientist, says in a company statement, “We intend to apply and further develop the technology and use it on current and future pipeline assets with the aim of making more biologic medicines orally available for patients.”

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