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Urovant Being Folded Into Japanese Pharma Giant

Irvine’s Urovant Sciences Ltd., which at one time was preparing to explode to almost a billion dollars in annual sales of medication to treat overactive bladders, is being folded into the U.S. operations of giant Japanese pharmaceutical firm Sumitomo Pharma Co. Ltd.

Urovant and its six sister companies will become Sumitomo Pharma America Inc., which plans to focus on addressing unmet patient needs in the critical areas of central nervous system, oncology, urology, women’s health, and cell and gene therapies.

“(We) believe Sumitomo Pharma America will serve as a valuable growth engine,” Hiroshi Nomura, CEO of Sumitomo Pharma, said in a statement. “Sumitomo Pharma America will have increased scale and a combined network of resources and talent to accelerate a diverse portfolio of commercial and investigational programs for critical indications while creating a sustainable platform for growth.”

It’s the latest in the colorful short history of Urovant, which was started by Roivant Sciences Ltd., a publicly traded company with a $6.7 billion market cap (Nasdaq: ROIV). Roivant was begun in 2014 by Vivek Ramaswamy, a venture capitalist who is currently running for U.S. president as a Republican.

Ramaswamy created a model to buy failed or underappreciated drugs in development for low prices from large pharma companies.

In 2017, the company that became known as Urovant acquired the rights to the drug vibegron from Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.

Vibegron Development

While Urovant was still undergoing trials, it went public in 2018, raising $140 million. After its initial public offering at $14 a share in 2018, investors were less than impressed as the shares often hovered well below the IPO price.

In 2019, Roivant sold its stake to Sumitomo, which became majority owner of Urovant. In late 2020 when it was announced that Sumitomo would buy the remaining shares it didn’t own, Urovant’s stock skyrocketed about 90%.

At the time, the companies said Urovant would maintain its culture and leadership. A spokesman last week said the company plans to maintain its office in Irvine. Its local headcount fell 12% in the past year to 76, according to the Business Journal’s annual list of drugmakers; see the April 24 print edition for more.

Sumitomo management held hopes for the Irvine firm; according to a 2021 prospectus, it projected Urovant’s sales would climb from zero in 2021 to $137 million this year and eventually reach a high of $963 million in 2034.

After the drug won approval from the Food and Drug Administration, Urovant launched it in 2021, calling it “the first breakthrough medication for patients with overactive bladder in nearly a decade.”

Urovant rebranded the product as Gemtesa, saying it’s expected to address “significant unmet needs” in a large and underpenetrated market of about 30 million patients in the U.S.

It’s not yet clear if Urovant is having as much success as another local urology
company, Irvine’s Axonics Inc. (Nasdaq: AXNX), which now sports a $3 billion market cap.

The maker of implantable devices to help control bladders recently inked a 145,000-square-foot office deal—the largest such lease in the past two years in Orange County—to relocate its headquarters to the Sand Canyon Business Center in Irvine.

The Business Journal broke the news of the Axonics lease in the April 17 print edition of the paper.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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