CSL stops short of buying Arcturus

Yesterday’s licensing by CSL of Arcturus’s self-amplifying mRNA technology for Covid and beyond looks like a sensible move to broaden the former’s existing vaccine offering. If CSL believes, as many do, that mRNA is the future of vaccines, Arcturus was one of the few affordable options. And it has become much more affordable, having seen its market cap shrink amid a tough environment for all the Covid vaccine players. One question, however, is what this means for CSL’s own efforts in self-amplifying mRNA vaccines. Another is why CSL did not just acquire Arcturus, which yesterday had a market cap under $500m. Instead, the Australian group is paying $200m up front for rights covering Covid, influenza, “pandemic preparedness” and three other unnamed respiratory diseases. At least CSL, which via its Seqirus division claims to be the world’s second-largest flu vaccine player, has not broken the bank – the Arcturus deal pales by comparison with the $3.2bn Sanofi shelled out last year for Translate Bio, which has hardly paid off so far. CSL’s efforts to diversify have seen it strike several deals in recent years, the biggest being the $11.7bn takeout of Vifor.

CSL's recent deals
Target/asset Deal type Sector Date Terms
Arcturus Therapeutics Collaboration Self-amplifying mRNA vaccines Nov 2022 $200m up front; >$1.3bn development & >$3bn commercial milestones
Translational Sciences/ TS23  Option Thrombosis Oct 2022 Undisclosed
Vifor Pharma Acquisition Renal disease & iron deficiency Dec 2021 $11.7bn
Hcmed/ CSL787 Collaboration Inhaled biologicals May 2021 Undisclosed
Uniqure/ etranadez Licence Haemophilia B gene therapy Jun 2020 $450m up front; “over $300m” milestones; double-digit royalties
Vitaeris  Acquisition Transplant Jun 2020 Undisclosed
Source: Evaluate Pharma & company releases.

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