Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has acquired Inhibitex, an Atlanta-based pharmaceutical group currently developing a promising hepatitis C virus (HCV) nucleotide polymerase inhibitor, according to a joint-company announcement Saturday, January 7. BMS will pay $26 a share, for a total of $2.5 billion, to purchase Inhibitex, a transaction that the boards of directors of both companies have approved.

Inhibitex’s leading nucleotide polymerase inhibitor is INX-189, currently in Phase II studies. This particular class of HCV drugs holds tremendous promise, as they are expected to form the backbone of all-oral drug regimens that do not require pegylated interferon. Thus far, INX-189 has exhibited potent antiviral activity against several HCV genotypes and has a high barrier to resistance.

Other potentially important drugs being developed by Inhibitex include FV-100, an antiviral active against herpes zoster (shingles), and tefibazumab (Aurexis), a novel therapy for Staphylococcus aureus infections.

“This transaction puts INX-189 and the company’s other infectious disease assets in the hands of an organization that can more optimally develop them and which believes as strongly as we do in INX-189’s potential in the treatment of chronic HCV,” said Russell Plumb, president and chief executive officer of Inhibitex. “Bristol-Myers Squibb’s expertise in antiviral drug development, and its existing complementary portfolio, will assure that the potential of INX-189 is realized as part of future oral combination therapies for millions of patients in need around the world.”

“Bristol-Myers Squibb continues to drive advances in the field of hepatitis C research and development through internal development and selective partnerships,” said Elliott Sigal, MD, PhD, executive vice president, chief scientific officer and president of research and development at BMS. “The addition of Inhibitex’s nucleotide polymerase inhibitor to our own promising portfolio, which includes other direct-acting antivirals, brings additional options to develop all-oral regimens with better cure rates, shorter duration of therapy and lower toxicity than the current standard of care.”