Why Akebia Shares Are Hitting New Highs

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Akebia Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: AKBA) saw its shares hit a new 52-week high in Tuesday’s session following a key licensing agreement with Vifor Pharma. Specifically this is an exclusive license agreement to sell vadadustat to Fresenius Medical Care dialysis clinics in the United States after it has gained the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For some quick background: vadadustat is an oral hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabilizer currently in Phase 3 development for the treatment of anemia associated with chronic kidney disease.

According to the deal, Vifor Pharma will also make a $50 million equity investment in Akebia at $14 per share. Also, Vifor Pharma will exclusively distribute vadadustat to Fresenius Medical Care North America for use solely within its dialysis facilities in the United States to meet their need for an HIF-based treatment.

Fresenius Medical Care is the largest kidney dialysis provider in the United States and, in 2016, treated over 185,000 dialysis patients, or nearly 40% of the U.S. dialysis patients.

Stefan Schulze, president of the Executive Committee and chief operating officer of Vifor Pharma, commented:

Vadadustat could represent a significant advancement in the treatment of renal anemia with the potential to establish a new treatment paradigm and overcome the limitations of current therapies for patients with chronic kidney disease. We believe that vadadustat may also be a potential solution for hyporesponder patients who do not respond well to erythropoiesis stimulating agents. This transaction strengthens the nephrology product portfolio of Vifor Pharma and is consistent with our ongoing commitment to deliver innovative products that can improve the lives of patients suffering with chronic kidney disease.

Excluding Tuesday’s move, Akebia has outperformed the broad markets, with the stock up 24% year to date. Over the past year, the stock is actually up 66%.

Shares of Akebia were last seen up 18.5% at $15.29 on Tuesday, with a consensus analyst price target of $20.00 and a 52-week trading range of $7.00 to $15.87.