Teams from Hogan Lovells and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have advised Swiss drugmaker Novartis on its US$8.7 billion acquisition of gene therapy company AveXis.

The deal, announced on 9 April, will see Novartis take control of AveXis’s newly developed spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) treatment AVXS-101 as well as forthcoming drugs for Rett syndrome, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

The US Food and Drug Administration has granted AVXS-101 orphan drug and breakthrough therapy designations for the treatment of SMA, with a licence application scheduled for the second half of 2018. Novartis says the treatment is expected to be approved and launched in the US in 2019, with subsequent launches expected for Europe and Japan.

Novartis has set up a new acquisition entity that will commence a tender offer from AveXis no later than 17 April, following the unanimous approval of both companies’ boards. The deal is expected to close by mid-2018.

Hogan Lovells’ US M&A co-head Joseph Gilligan and New York corporate group chair Adam Golden advised Novartis on the acquisition, with Freshfields providing antitrust advice and M&A boutique Dyal & Co acting as financial adviser. AveXis was represented by legal teams from Cooley and Cravath Swaine and Moore, with financial advice from Goldman Sachs.

The buyout marks Novartis’ second notable gene therapy deal this year after the company exclusively licensed Spark Therapeutics’ vision loss treatment for US$105 million in January.

The company also recently sold its stake in a consumer healthcare joint venture to GlaxoSmithKline for US$13 billion (£9.2 billion). According to Reuters, Novartis plans to use proceeds from the transaction to help pay for AveXis.

"The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition,” Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said in a statement.

He added: “We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas. We look forward on the closing of the deal to a smooth transition for AveXis employees and welcoming them to Novartis."

Counsel for Novartis

  • Hogan Lovells

Joseph Gilligan and Adam Golden

  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Counsel for AveXis

  • Cooley

Ivor Elrifi, Barbara Borden, Div Gupta, Darren DeStefano and Madison Jones.

  • Cravath Swaine and Moore