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TECH Fort Worth-backed company in potential $2 billion-plus acquisition

🕐 1 min read

Swiss drug maker Actelion Ltd. confirmed late Thursday it is in preliminary talks to acquire Coppell-based ZS Pharma Inc. (ZSPH), a medical technology company with ties to TECH Fort Worth.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Actelion made a preliminary purchase offer last month that would value ZS Pharma at $2.5 billion. ZS Pharma has a market value of just under $2 billion.

The news sent ZS Pharma’s shares soaring, jumping 28.4 percent on Thursday to close at $74.73. Around noon on Friday, shares were trading at $78 a share.

ZS Pharma develops treatments for kidney, cardiovascular, liver and metabolic disorders. The key drug being developed is ZS-9 used to treat hyperkalemia, a life-threatening condition in which elevated levels of potassium increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. The drug has been submitted to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval with a goal date for a decision on May 26, 2016.

“Hyperkalemia is a serious condition with few treatment options and ZS-9 could be the first selective agent approved for the treatment of this condition,” said Robert Alexander, CEO, in a statement earlier this year. “The acceptance of the NDA [new drug application] is an important step toward making ZS-9 potentially available to patients with hyperkalemia.”

ZS Pharma went public in 2014, the first Texas biotech IPO since 2000.

Founded in 2008, the company relocated from Indiana to Fort Worth to work with technology incubator TECH Fort Worth and the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Co-founders Al Guillem, president, and Jeffrey Keyser, chief operating officer, have more than 60 years of combined experience in the pharmaceutical industry, according to the company website.

In 2010, ZS Pharma received a $2 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a taxpayer-funded vehicle that invests in early-stage startups.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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