Vertex Pharmaceuticals is buying Canada’s ViroChem Pharma in a deal that will further strengthen its position in the field of hepatitis C.

Under the terms of the deal, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company will give privately-held ViroChem $100 million in cash and 9.9 million shares of Vertex stock. This values the deal at around $377 million.

In return, Vertex gets hold of ViroChem’s HCV portfolio, notably two polymerase inhibitors – VCH-222 and VCH-759 – which have demonstrated “substantial reductions in plasma HCV RNA when dosed as single agents and have been well-tolerated in clinical studies to date”, the firms noted.

These compounds are in early stages of development but Vertex plans to combine the polymerase inhibitors with its own HCV drug telaprevir, a protease inhibitor which is already in Phase III trials. Joshua Boger, Vertex chief executive, noted that “through this acquisition, we're well positioned as a leader in the development of HCV therapies” and its goal is to create “novel and highly potent specifically targeted antiviral therapies for hepatitis C (STAT-C) combination regimens."

The first STAT-C trial combination trial with telaprevir is scheduled to start in the second half of this year. Kurt Graves, chief commercial officer and head of strategic development at Vertex, added that “we selected ViroChem's compounds following careful evaluation of the STAT-C landscape for more than a year. Key data has emerged that suggest that these compounds could uniquely complement telaprevir and provide a foundation for shaping a potentially new treatment paradigm."