Lilly Agrees to Buy US Biotech Morphic in $3.2 Billion Deal

(Bloomberg) — Eli Lilly & Co. agreed to buy U.S. gut-drug maker Morphic Holding Inc. for about $3.2 billion, plowing some of the proceeds from obesity blockbuster Zepbound into its experimental pipeline.

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Lilly will pay $57 a share in cash for Waltham, Massachusetts-based Morphic, or 79% more than the closing price Friday, the companies said in a statement Monday. Morphic’s board recommends that stockholders tender their shares in the offer.

Immunology is a core area for Lilly, whose Chief Executive Officer Dave Ricks has promised more early-stage deals to acquire new technologies. For Morphic shareholders, the takeover is a turnaround after disappointing data in a clinical trial led to a selloff last September.

Morphic’s shares soared 76% in trading before US markets opened. The company climbed 10% this year prior to the deal being announced.

Morphic is developing a so-called selective oral small molecule inhibitor for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. The US biotech’s most advanced experimental compound is being studied in three mid-stage clinical trials, two in ulcerative colitis and one in Crohn’s disease. Lilly is already active in the area, winning US Food and Drug Administration approval last year for its Omvoh injection for ulcerative colitis.

Pills like the one Morphic is developing could help doctors treat patients with diseases like ulcerative colitis earlier and also potentially allow for combination treatment for people who are sicker, Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement.

–With assistance from Madison Muller.

(Updates with shares in the fourth paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected the trial stage for Crohn’s disease.)

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