Malvern area biopharma takes steps to grow company

EAST WHITELAND >> A Malvern area biopharmaceutical company announced two moves this week designed to help the company grow.

On Tuesday, Aclaris Therapeutics said it purchased Confluence Life Sciences Inc., a privately held biotechnology company based in St. Louis. Confluence’s equity holders are entitled to $10 million in cash, $10 million in Aclaris common stock and are eligible to receive $80 million based on development and regulatory milestones and potential royalty payments on drug sales.

On Wednesday, Nasdaq-listed Aclaris announced a stock offering of common stock valued at $75 million.

Aclaris Therapeutics is a dermatologist-led biopharmaceutical company committed to identifying, developing and commercializing therapies to address medical and aesthetic dermatology treatment. The company is focused on underserved market segments with no FDA-approved medications or where treatment gaps exist.

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Confluence is focused on the discovery and development of kinase inhibitors to treat inflammatory and immunological disorders and cancer. Aclaris has 50 employees at its Malvern location, and the company is expanding in preparation for the commercial launch of one of its drug compounds.

In announcing the acquisition, Aclaris said it planned to retain the Confluence operation in St. Louis where 40 people work.

“Confluence is at the forefront of innovation in the discovery and development of new compounds and new approaches to treating patients with severe and debilitating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases,” said Neal Walker, president and CEO of Aclaris. “The Confluence acquisition enables Aclaris to solidify its existing position in inflammatory/autoimmune skin disorders and expand into relevant adjacent therapeutic areas. The KINectPlatform will provide our own in-house discovery and rational drug design platform. The acquisition is a significant step forward in building a fully integrated biopharmaceutical company ...”

The deal solidified what had been a solid working relationship, the head of Confluence added.

“We are delighted to enter into this transaction with Aclaris,” said Walter Smith, Confluence’s CEO. “Their commitment to patients and scientific innovation makes them an ideal partner to continue to advance our drug discovery programs. This transaction expands an existing collaboration between two companies with a striking degree of complementarity.”

Aclaris, founded in 2012, has licensed drugs that it is putting through clinical trials and planning to commercialize, but didn’t do its own basic research until now. “This plugged a big gap for us,” Walker said of the acquisition in a conference call. “It’s better to own that capability in-house.”

In the stock offering, Aclaris also intends to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional $11.25 million of shares of its common stock sold in the public offering.

Jefferies LLC and Leerink Partners LLC are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering. William Blair & Company, L.L.C., Guggenheim Securities, LLC, and JMP Securities LLC are acting as co-managers for the offering.

– To contact Business Writer Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to bmccullough@21st-centurymedia.com.