Zerva Therapeutics, formerly KemPharm, has announced a strategic acquisition of Acer Therapeutics to expand its rare therapies portfolio.

The biggest Acer assets include the marketed rare therapy Olpruva (sodium phenylbutyrate formulation), and late-stage drug celiprolol.

The acquisition is expected to be worth up to $91m in stock and cash payments, of which $76m is contingent upon milestone-based payments for Olpruva and celiprolol. Additionally, Zerva purchased Acer’s secured debt at a discounted value of $35.3m from its creditor, Nantahala Capital.

The news caused Acer’s stock to skyrocket by 140% when the markets opened on 31 August. Zerva has a market cap of $165.25m, with a reported Q1 2023 revenue of $2.9m, as per the company’s financial report. Whilst Acer reported a loss of $8.1m in Q2 2023, as per the company’s Q2 financials.

Olpruva is an oral suspension approved for the treatment of urea cycle disorders by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2022. Urea cycle disorders are a type of rare genetic metabolic disorder that causes a build-up of toxic levels of ammonia.

Celiprolol is a beta-1 selective adrenoceptor antagonist with partial beta-2 agonist activity currently in Phase III (NCT05432466) clinical development for the rare connective tissue disorder, vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

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Another Acer pipeline drug is the menopausal therapy, ACER-801 (osanetant), which was licensed from Sanofi. However, the drug development was paused after a Phase IIa trial failed to meet its primary endpoint.

Zerva’s marketed portfolio consists of Azstarys (serdexmethylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate), an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug for children aged six years or older. Zerva has a licensing agreement with Corin for marketing Azstarys in the US.

The pipeline portfolio of Zerva includes arimoclomol for treating Niemann-Pick Disease Type C, and KP1077 for rare sleep disorders such as idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy.