Tekmira shares jump after it announces deal for OnCore Biopharma to focus on hepatitis B cure

MarketsAssociated Press

Shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals soared Monday after the Canadian drugmaker said it would buy privately held OnCore Biopharma to form a team focused on developing a hepatitis B cure.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Tekmira said Sunday that OnCore will become a wholly owned subsidiary, and OnCore shareholders will hold about a 50 percent stake in Tekmira. Regulators and Tekmira shareholders still have to approve the deal, which the companies expect to close in the first half of 2015.

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Tekmira CEO Dr. Mark J. Murray said in a statement that the combined company has the potential to advance several potential drugs through clinical testing.

Other drugmakers like Gilead Sciences Inc. have developed new treatments for hepatitis C that have been hailed as breakthroughs in curing the liver-destroying virus.

Hepatitis B is a less common form of the contagious and potentially fatal disease. The virus that causes it is most often transmitted through unprotected sex. Intravenous drug use is another major risk factor, and it can be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.

OnCore was founded in 2012 by former Pharmasset Inc. executives after Gilead bought Pharmasset.

U.S.-traded shares of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. jumped more than 44 percent, or $6.97, to $22.67 shortly after markets opened Monday. The stock nearly doubled in value last year to close 2014 at $15.15.