Driving investor enthusiasm is ETC-216, a therapeutic protein that has been shown to actually reverse atherosclerosis -- the clogging of arteries. In early November, Esperion reported that ETC-216 reduced plaque volume by 4.2% in patients in a Phase II trial. These patients were given weekly injections of the drug over the course of only five weeks.
And the deal is a fit.
David Nierengarten noted here last month that the compound "would be a good complement to statin therapies that lower overall cholesterol levels." Among these statin therapies is Pfizer's Lipitor, which Esperion CEO Roger Newton co-discovered and developed. The idea is that patients will use ETC-216 in the event of emergency -- such as a heart attack -- and then follow up with a long-term regimen of Lipitor and toretrapib.
A Phase II study has shown that particular combination to enhance the "bad"-cholesterol-lowering effect of Lipitor while at the same time increasing "good" cholesterol.
Pfizer, which had previously acquired co-marketing rights for ETC-216 through its merger with Pharmacia, broadens its cardiovascular reach while stuffing its pipeline. In addition to ETC-216, Esperion brings a second Phase II compound in ETC-588 for carotid atherosclerosis, as well as several early-stage compounds.
The deal also caps a stunning rise in Esperion's shares, which in February hovered at just over $6.