The strategic transaction centers around helping to further develop and commercialize iStar’s MINIject minimally invasive glaucoma surgical (MIGS) device. It will also provide AbbVie with a chance to expand its eye care business through an option to acquire Wavre, Belgium-based iStar, building on a portfolio that includes drops, sustained release implants and stent offerings.
Under the agreement, North Chicago-based AbbVie will provide a $60 million, non-dilutive, upfront payment for iStar to continue developing and commercializing MINIject until the completion of the Star-V clinical study, an FDA investigational device exemption (IDE) study. AbbVie will hold the exclusive right to acquire iStar and lead the subsequent global development and commercialization of the device.
Should AbbVie exercise its right to acquire iStar, stockholders of the latter would be eligible to receive additional contingent payments of up to $475 million in a closing payment and upon the achievement of certain predetermined milestones, according to a news release.
“As a leading company in eye care with a commitment to a broad and diverse portfolio from the front to the back of the eye, along with our global footprint and infrastructure in glaucoma, we are well-positioned to support bringing this MIGS offering to patients and glaucoma specialists through this strategic alliance,” Dr. Michael Robinson, VP and global therapeutic area head of eye care at AbbVie, said in the release. “This alliance with iStar Medical is an important step as we continue to be an innovator in glaucoma by maximizing the value of interventional approaches throughout the treatment paradigm.”
MINIject combines the porous structure of iStar’s proprietary STAR material with the power offered by the supraciliary space to enhance natural fluid outflow, reduce intraocular pressure and the need for medication while bio-integrating with surrounding tissue, limiting inflammation, fibrosis and subsequent complications.
The device holds CE mark approval, while iStar is currently enrolling in the Star-V study, having been granted FDA IDE in July 2021. iStar will remain independent through the completion of the Star-V study.
“Today’s announcement is validation of the transformational role of MINIject in the treatment of glaucoma,” iStar CEO Michel Vanbrabant said. “Our commitment has always been to enable more glaucoma patients globally to be treated effectively in a minimally-invasive manner with our MINIject MIGS device, and this alliance accelerates that goal, especially in the United States.
“We will benefit from AbbVie’s strong global experience and knowledge base already established in glaucoma, and we are excited to be working with such a world-class team.”
BTIG analyst Ryan Zimmerman noted in a report that AbbVie’s current surgical glaucoma product, Xen, does not compete in the MIGS landscape with the leaders in that space, highlighting the company’s push to break through.
“In our view, the transaction doesn’t shake up the surgical glaucoma landscape today, but it certainly signals [AbbVie’s] intention to get larger in the mild to moderate glaucoma segment with a more expansive product portfolio,” Zimmerman wrote.