Pfizer in talks to buy Global Blood Therapeutics for roughly $5bn

Pfizer is close to acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for about $5bn as the drugmaker taps the huge cash pile generated by the success of its Covid-19 vaccine to replenish its pipeline, according to people briefed on the talks.

GBT, which recently obtained regulatory approval for its sickle cell disease drug, had been exploring a potential sale for some time, according to Bloomberg News, and had held talks with a number of potential buyers.

A deal could be announced as early as Monday when GBT is scheduled to report its second-quarter results, the people said.

The deal would be the latest in a number of acquisitions by the New York-based company, which has been aggressively buying in new drugs.

Pfizer in May agreed a $11.6bn deal to buy US biotech Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, which is developing migraine treatments. It also recently completed a $6.7bn deal to buy Arena Pharmaceuticals, a biotech developing medicines targeting immune-inflammatory diseases in the areas of gastroenterology and cardiology.

Pfizer is flush with cash following the success of the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech and sales of its antiviral medicine Paxlovid. But analysts say it may struggle to increase revenues, with sales of Covid medicines and vaccines expected to moderate in the coming years just as several of its other drugs face competition from generic rivals.

GBT, which was founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco, is developing treatments targeting sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that affects up to 100,000 people in the US. 

Evan Seigerman, analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said $5bn was a relatively small deal for Pfizer and that it retains significant capacity to do further acquisitions.

“Given management’s urgency to transact, we expect more deals over the balance of 2022 and into 2023,” he said.

Pfizer declined to comment. GBT said it did not “comment on market rumours or speculation”.

The proposed transaction comes amid an apparent uptick in M&A activity across the biopharma sector, which is being driven by a combination of larger pharmaceutical companies seeking new drugs to bolster their pipelines and more realistic valuations in the biotech sector.

This week Amgen announced a deal to buy ChemoCentryx, a San Carlos, California-based company, for $3.7bn and Gilead said it would acquire UK-based MiroBio for $405mn. Both companies develop medicines that target inflammatory diseases.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Pfizer was in advanced talks with GBT.

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