Vertex Again Buys Maker of Potential Diabetes Cure

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has announced that it will acquire ViaCyte, a privately held developer of stem cell-derived therapies for Type 1 diabetes, marking its second purchase of a company seeking a cure for the disease.

Vertex would pay $320 million for the San Diego-based company in a deal that comes about three years after it bought Semma Therapeutics for almost $1 billion. One of Semma’s treatments is currently in the human testing phase.

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In a press statement, Vertex said the ViaCyte deal provides “complementary assets, capabilities, and technologies” to those it already has from its purchase of Semma, including manufacturing facilities that could help speed up its current Type 1 diabetes programs.

Vertex made a name for itself by taking four cystic fibrosis drugs to market, which last quarter yielded more than $2 billion in revenue. The ViaCyte deal sends the company in a new direction, expanding from “small molecule” drugs to stem cell therapy.

The 23-year-old ViaCyte also collaborates with device makers and CRISPR Therapeutics, a gene-editing biotech company with whom Vertex has been working on blood disorder medications, according to analysts at the investment firm Stifel.

The deal comes at a time when the Federal Trade Commission has said it will spend extra time inspecting biopharma deals with overlapping products. Also, cell therapy is particularly complex, according to Stifel analysts, setting up the potential for development difficulties.