Genfit has signed an exclusivity agreement for the acquisition of all the share capital and voting rights of Versantis, a Switzerland-based clinical-stage biotechnology firm, in a deal totalling $109m (Sfr105m).

Versantis focuses on unmet liver ailment needs. Its key asset, VS-01, is a first-in-class liposomal-based treatment product candidate.

This product is being analysed clinically as a first-line therapy for acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) and urea cycle disorder (UCD).

The company intends to commence a randomised, controlled Phase II proof-of-concept clinical trial of VS-01, enrolling 60 ACLF patients in the fourth quarter of the year.

Apart from VS-01, Versantis also has a pre-clinical oral, small molecule drug candidate, VS-02, which is under development for potential chronic management of hepatic encephalopathy (HE).

According to the agreement, Genfit will make an initial payment of $41.4m (Sfr40m) to Versantis at closing.

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On obtaining positive data from Phase II trials of VS-01 and VS-02, as well as regulatory approval for VS-01, Versantis will receive additional payments of up to $67.5m (Sfr65m).

Additionally, Versantis is entitled to get one-third of the net proceeds from the sale of the Priority Review Voucher of paediatric application for VS-01 to a third party by Genfit.

On Genfit choosing to use it for a programme of its own, Versantis will receive one-third of the voucher’s fair market value. 

The Versantis takeover will bolster Genfit’s liver diseases portfolio.

By merging the capabilities of Versantis with Genfit’s knowledge of running complex development programmes in liver diseases, the companies aim to boost and expedite research and development.

Genfit CEO Pascal Prigent said: “Versantis has an exciting portfolio that is complementary to Genfit’s. We are also thrilled to welcome a talented team that has developed a strong scientific expertise in ACLF. 

“We believe that significant synergies exist and that this acquisition will accelerate the development of several promising drug candidates in areas of high unmet needs.” 

The acquisition is anticipated to conclude in the fourth quarter of the year.