Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) and Akouos, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKUS) today announced a definitive agreement for Lilly to acquire Akouos, a precision genetic medicine company that is developing a portfolio of first-in-class adeno-associated viral gene therapies for the treatment of inner ear conditions, including sensorineural hearing loss.
“We are honored to work with the talented team at Akouos who are breaking new ground in the science of treating hearing loss,” said Andrew C. Adams, Ph.D., senior vice president of genetic medicine and co-director of the Institute for Genetic Medicine, Lilly. “We believe that with Lilly’s resources, global reach, and growing capabilities in gene therapy, we can help Akouos fulfill their mission of making healthy hearing available to all.”
Akouos has integrated expertise across otology, inner ear drug delivery, and gene therapy with the goal of addressing the needs of people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide. Akouos’s lead product candidate, AK-OTOF, is a gene therapy for the treatment of hearing loss due to mutations in the otoferlin gene (OTOF). Additional pipeline programs span across multiple inner ear conditions, and include AK-CLRN1 for Usher Type 3A, an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by progressive loss of both hearing and vision; GJB2 (which encodes connexin 26) for a common form of monogenic deafness and hearing loss; and AK-antiVEGF for the treatment of vestibular schwannoma.
“I am proud of the commitment and passion of our team, which has established Akouos as a pioneer in inner ear genetic medicine, as demonstrated by our work to advance the first investigational therapy for a genetic form of hearing loss into clinical development,” said Emmanuel Simons, Ph.D., M.B.A., co-founder, president, and chief executive officer of Akouos. “Joining Lilly – a company that shares our purpose to make life better for people around the world – will help us accelerate the development of a broad pipeline of inner ear genetic medicines.”
Under the terms of the transaction, Lilly will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Akouos for $12.50 per share in cash, plus one contingent value right (CVR) of up to $3.00 per share. The deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.
“Gene therapy offers tremendous opportunity to provide durable treatments for patients with genetically defined disease; this is our second acquisition in gene therapy, following the 2021 acquisition of Prevail Therapeutics,” added Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., Lilly’s chief scientific and medical officer, and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. “With Akouos, we are optimistic that we can make a difference for people with hearing loss and other inner ear conditions.”
Terms of the Agreement
Lilly will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Akouos for a purchase price of $12.50 per share in cash (an aggregate of approximately $487 million) payable at closing plus one non-tradeable contingent value right per share (“CVR”) that entitles the holder to receive up to an additional $3.00 in cash, for a total consideration of up to $15.50 per share in cash without interest (an aggregate of up to approximately $610 million).
CVR holders would become entitled to receive contingent payments as follows: (i) $1.00 in cash, upon the fifth (5th) participant being administered with AK-OTOF in a Phase 1 or Phase 1/2 trial on or prior to Dec. 31, 2024; (ii) $1.00 in cash, upon the fifth (5th) participant being administered with an Akouos gene therapy product for a second monogenic form of sensorineural hearing loss (excluding AK-OTOF and AK-antiVEGF) on or prior to Dec. 31, 2026; and (iii) $1.00 in cash, upon (a) the first (1st) participant being administered with an Akouos gene therapy product (excluding AK-antiVEGF) for a monogenic form of sensorineural hearing loss in a Phase 3 trial, or (b) receipt of FDA approval in the U.S. for such Akouos product, whichever occurs first, on or prior to Dec. 31, 2026, or its value will be reduced by approximately 4.2 cents per month until Dec. 1, 2028 (at which point the CVR will expire).
There can be no assurance that any payments will be made with respect to the CVR. The transaction is not subject to any financing condition and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022, subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of required antitrust clearance and the tender of a majority of the outstanding shares of Akouos’s common stock. Following the successful closing of the tender offer, Lilly will acquire any shares of Akouos that are not tendered in the tender offer through a second-step merger at the same consideration as paid in the tender offer.
The purchase price payable at closing represents a premium of approximately 121% to the 30-day volume-weighted average trading price of Akouos’s common stock ended on Oct. 17, 2022, the last trading day before the announcement of the transaction. Akouos’s Board of Directors unanimously recommends that Akouos’s stockholders tender their shares in the tender offer. Additionally, certain Akouos stockholders, beneficially owning approximately 26% of Akouos’s outstanding common stock, have (subject to certain terms and conditions) agreed to tender their shares in the tender offer.
Lilly will determine the accounting treatment of this transaction as a business combination or an asset acquisition, including any related acquired in-process research and development charges, according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) upon closing, which is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2022. This transaction will thereafter be reflected in Lilly’s financial results and financial guidance.
For Lilly, Kirkland & Ellis LLP is acting as legal counsel. For Akouos, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP is acting as legal counsel and Centerview Partners LLC as sole financial advisor.
Akouos is a precision genetic medicine company dedicated to developing gene therapies with the potential to restore, improve and preserve high-acuity physiologic hearing for individuals living with disabling hearing loss worldwide. Leveraging its precision genetic medicine platform that incorporates a proprietary adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector library and a novel delivery approach, Akouos is focused on developing precision therapies for forms of sensorineural hearing loss. Headquartered in Boston, Akouos was founded in 2016 by leaders in the fields of neurotology, genetics, inner ear drug delivery, and AAV gene therapy.
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