Australian drug development company Biota announced on Monday that it will be moving to the United States and merging with US-based Nabi Pharmaceuticals to form a new company called Biota Pharmaceuticals. The new enterprise will be headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.
Biota received a $231M USD contract award from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in April 2011 for the advanced development of a second-generation flu drug called laninamivir. The drug is a long acting neuraminidase inhibitor that Biota says can both treat and prevent flu infections in fewer doses than currently-available neuraminidase inhibitors. Laninamivir is already approved in Japan but is several years away from approval in the U.S.
The BARDA funding worked to accellerate the timeframe for bringing the drug to market in the U.S. by supporting manufacturing processes and clinical trials stateside. The contract was part of BARDA’s implementation of the national pandemic influenza preparedness strategy, which includes accelerating the advanced development of new antiviral drugs.
Biota chairman Dr. Jim Fox said that Australian investors had appeared not to have truly appreciated the value of the BARDA award and that the move to the US was designed to achieve better value recognition and liquidity through a stronger US shareholder base.
According to Yahoo Finance, the BARDA contract was almost 1.4 times bigger than Biota’s market capitalisation at the time. “Just an amazing contract, but the marketplace didn’t really understand that,” Fox said. “We believe the US market will appreciate what we’ve got and better reflect the value of our assets than staying in Australia.” Biota already has one U.S. approved influenza drug, Relenza, which is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline.
Biota and Nabi are expected to wrap up the deal by September 30, 2012.