Nestlé’s nutritional science brand Nestlé Health Science (NHSc) is to acquire California-based Aimmune Therapeutics. The acquisition is priced at $34.50 per share in cash, which represents $2.6bn and a 174% premium on Aimmune’s closing price on 28 August 2020.

The deal comes around nine months after Aimmune received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Palforzia (peanut (Arachis hypogaea) Allergen Powder-dnfp), which is indicated for peanut allergy. This drug is the first approved treatment for patients with any food allergy.

Aimmune CEO and president Jayson Dallas noted: “The agreement with Nestlé recognizes the value created by years of commitment and dedication to our mission by the team at Aimmune.

“Delivering Palforzia, the world’s first treatment for food allergy, is a game-changing proposition in the biopharmaceutical industry and is transformative for the lives of millions of people living with potentially life-threatening peanut allergy.”

The $2.6bn deal has been approved by all members of Aimmune’s board, other than Greg Behar, who abstained in the vote because of his CEO position at NHSc.

Aimmune and NHSc expect this acquisition to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2020. As a result of the closing of the deal, a wholly owned own subsidiary of NHSc’s Sociétés des Produits Nestlé will merge with Aimmune and the group will continue to operate as a separate company.

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Existing relationship between NHSc and Aimmune

NHSc has been an investor and development partner of Aimmune since 2016. It began with an initial investment of $145m in 2016, followed by $30m in February 2018, $98m in November 2018 and $200m in January 2020.

This brings NHSc’s total investment in the company over the last four years to $473m, earning NHSc a 25.6% stake in Aimmune. Behar has also served on Aimmune’s board since 2016.

This partnership centres around the companies’ “mutual goal of developing innovative therapies for food allergies”, noted Dallas in a release about NHSc’s January 2020 investment. This acquisition will build on NHSc’s strong food allergy portfolio, which primarily focuses on children – this includes SpoonfulOne and the AAA range, according to a company spokesperson.

The spokesperson added: “NHSc is a high-performing company with sales expected this year at CHF3.3bn [$3.6bn], growing double-digit YTD [year-to-date].

“With the acquisition of Aimmune, another high-performing company with tremendous potential and the only food allergy treatment approved in the world, we would create a global leader offering solutions from protection to treatment for the estimated 240 million people around the world with food allergies.”

Promise of Aimmune’s portfolio

NHSc’s previous investment and acquisition of Aimmune centres around its newly approved peanut allergy drug Palforzia. “We see tremendous potential for Palforzia around the world with potential for $1bn in sales in five or six years,” added the NHSc spokesperson.

Launching Palforzia during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for Aimmune, however, according to its 2020 second quarter financial results, which were published in July, Palforzia is now gaining momentum as the allergy practices across the US are re-opening.

As a result, Aimmune has “initiated a targeted digital and print marketing campaign to create greater awareness of Palforzia among patients and their caregivers in the US,” explained Dallas.

Aimmune is also awaiting a review by the European Medicines Agency of its marketing authorisation application for Palforzia; the company is expecting action to be taken in the fourth quarter of 2020.

However, NHSc also sees promise for other products in Aimmune’s pipeline. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Aimmune’s Phase II trials are ongoing for its egg allergy product AR201 and it has completed its pre-investigational new drug application meeting with the FDA for its multi-tree nut allergy programme, which includes almonds, walnuts and cashews.