Ventrus Biosciences has entered into a merger agreement with Assembly Pharmaceuticals, a privately held biopharma company with novel, first-in-class small molecules to treat, and potentially cure, hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Financial terms of the all-stock transaction were not disclosed.
The combined company will be renamed Assembly Biosciences, Inc. and will focus on the development of Assembly's HBV candidates. Chronic HBV infection causes cirrhosis and liver failure, and it is a leading cause of liver cancer.
Assembly has discovered a series of HBV Core Protein Allosteric Modulators (CpAMs) that have shown preclinical proof of principle with significant reductions in the HBV "S" antigen in in vitro experiments. CpAMs have shown they can selectively and potently reduce viral load, and the key viral antigens, HBV "S" antigen (HBsAg) and HBV "E" antigen (HBeAg), which is considered to be the best marker of a functional cure.
"We believe this merger has tremendous potential. Assembly has amassed an enormous depth of scientific expertise and created a high quality drug discovery effort aimed at advancing its potentially curative therapies for HBV," said Dr. Russell Ellison, chief executive officer and Chairman of Ventrus. "We believe combining the Ventrus and Assembly management teams, resources, and programs, will create a robust biopharmaceutical company with the capabilities to develop and commercialize this first-in-class curative approach to an underserved disease that afflicts hundreds of millions of people worldwide."
"This merger is an outstanding opportunity to progress our HBV platform and expeditiously bring a lead candidate into clinical development," said Derek Small, chairman and chief executive officer of Assembly. "Our board and management team believe that by joining with Ventrus, we can accelerate the creation of shareholder value as well as the timeline for development of our much-needed HBV therapeutics. We enthusiastically embraced this opportunity after carefully assessing multiple other attractive proposals to advance Assembly to the next stage."