BioCryst Keeps Durham HQ, Workforce After Marriage Cancellation

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Shareholders of Durham-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals have rejected a January 2018 merger agreement with Pennsylvania-based Idera Pharmaceuticals, in a special vote that will keep BioCryst in the Triangle.

The two publicly traded companies announced in January that they would form a new company – to be named upon the deal’s closing – focused on developing medicines for treating rare diseases. 

The combined company was to be headquartered in Exton, Pa., at the current Idera headquarters, with a consolidated research center in Birmingham, Ala.

Key shareholders, however, argued that the merger agreement undervalued BioCryst’s upside potential.

BioCryst, founded in 1986, designs and develops novel small molecule drugs that block key enzymes involved in rare diseases. Its first approved product is RAPIVAB, a viral neuraminidase inhibitor for treating influenza. The company also has two late-stage compounds in the clinical pipeline:

  • BCX7353, a Phase 3 drug for the prophylactic treatment of hereditary angioedema in a capsule formulation with FDA orphan drug designation;
  • BCX7353, a Phase 2 drug for the acute treatment of hereditary angioedema in a liquid formulation.

“We respect and understand the views of our stockholders and are moving forward fully focused on executing our business plan as a standalone company,” said BioCryst President and CEO Jon Stonehouse in a statement issued after the vote Tuesday.

Jon Stonehouse
Jon Stonehouse 
-- BioCryst photo

BioCryst Senior Vice President and CFO Thomas Staab told the North Carolina Biotechnology Center today that the decision means it’s business as usual for BioCryst employees. At the time of the January merger announcement, BioCryst said it had about 80 employees at its headquarters in Durham and at its R&D center in Birmingham, Ala.

“The company’s employment in Durham, and in the entire company, has remained constant since announcement over the last six months since merger announcement,” Staab said. “I am not aware of any employment changes in the future other than we will be preparing for commercial launch of our BCX7353 product in 2020 and will be hiring commercial and product support employees in advance of launch as we near NDA filing and approval.”  

He added that the company’s lease at its Emperor Boulevard site runs through mid-2020, so BioCryst expects to remain in that space at least through the lease term.

BioCryst moved its headquarters from Birmingham to Durham in 2010, but continues to maintain some R&D activity at the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham. Southern Research is a non-profit scientific research organization headquartered in Birmingham with additional laboratories and offices in Durham as well as Wilsonville, Alabama; Frederick, Maryland; Cartersville, Georgia; and Houston, Texas.

Robert Ingram, chairman of the BioCryst board, said, “We are focused on serving the interests of all stockholders in their desire for BioCryst to pursue a standalone strategy and continue our path to treating patients with rare and serious diseases. The board and management are steadfast in our commitment to capitalize on the opportunities in BioCryst’s current portfolio and advance the promising candidates in the company’s pipeline to generate stockholder value.”

In accordance with the terms of the merger agreement, BioCryst will reimburse Idera for transaction-related expenses of $6 million.

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