Precision medicine biotech Akouos and its late pre-clinical stage lead program AK-OTOF, a hearing loss-treating gene therapy, are being acquired by American pharma giant Eli Lilly for just under half a billion dollars in cash. Lilly is set to absorb all outstanding Akouos shares at a per-share price of $12.50 for a 121% premium on the company’s volume-weighted monthly average trading price. An included contingent value right will additionally grant shareholders up to $3 more in per-share cash, making the total value of acquisition $610 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2022.
Delivered via an adeno-associated viral vector, AK-OTOF treats hearing loss by rendering a functional copy of the otoferlin gene. The therapy is intended to restore normal hair cell function in the cochlea in order to release neurotransmitters in response to sound stimulus. Early data made public in May proved that AK-OTOF is capable of producing functional, full-length otoferlin mRNA and protein. Akouos is confidently pushing it into preparation for a much-anticipated phase I/II trial.
Though the acquisition of a prime pipeline candidate is topline of this lucrative deal, it also comes with the associated means of delivery, giving Eli Lilly access to a targeted delivery platform which leverages novel AAV tech to inject gene therapy payloads into inner-ear cells. Personnel will be on hand to help facilitate the merge, as Akouos’ team of hereditary hearing loss experts will be brought into the Eli Lilly fold.