Ligand Pharmaceuticals has agreed to acquire Pfenex in an all-share transaction, priced at $12 per share, totalling an equity value of $438m in cash, on a fully diluted basis.

The US-based biopharmaceutical firm is expected to pay $2 per share, valuing a total of $78m as a Contingent Value Right (CVR) upon the reaching of the regulatory milestone by 31 December 2021, making the total transaction value up to $516m.

Subject to certain customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Ligand chief executive officer John Higgins said: “Pfenex is an ideal strategic, business and cultural fit with Ligand.

“The acquisition holds the potential to have a significantly positive scientific and financial impact on our business in the short and long term, similar to how our Captisol and OmniAb acquisitions have played out.

“Pfenex will add an established, proven protein expression platform to Ligand that is highly complementary to our essential, proprietary drug discovery and formulation technologies. We are confident we will be able to quickly and efficiently grow the Pfenex business, along with our core existing technologies.”

Pfenex develops and licenses Pfenex Expression Technology for protein therapeutics

Pfenex is a development and licensing biotechnology firm that leverages its advanced Pfenex Expression Technology to develop next-generation and novel protein therapeutics to address critical, unmet diseases.

The advanced technology is said to provide a validated, economical and scalable approach to recombinant protein production, and has helped the production of enzymes, peptides, antibody derivatives and engineered non-natural proteins.

The company has out-licensed the technology for various commercial and development-stage firms and is leveraging the technology to develop an early-stage product pipeline and enhance its capability in nano-body discovery and development.

Ligand said that Pfenex’s expertise in the production of complex proteins would complement its antibody and drug development technologies, and help create a complete discovery and early-stage platform.

Pfenex chief executive officer Eef Schimmelpennink said: “The Ligand-Pfenex combination is an excellent strategic and cultural fit, presenting a unique opportunity to leverage the complementary strengths of robust platforms and rich pipelines, we expect it to position us even better to deliver on our joint vision to develop therapeutics that provide patients a better future.”