Novartis International AG (NVS) on Monday, April 9, said it would buy Nasdaq-listed AveXis Inc. (AVXS) in an $8.7 billion deal that will expand its gene therapy and neuroscience capabilities.

Shares in the Basel, Switzerland company were up 0.23% in Monday trading at €77.86.

Novartis has agreed to pay $218 per AveXis share, a more than 80% premium to the shares closing price of $115.91 on Friday. The deal has unanimously approved by the Boards of both companies.

Bannockburn, Illinois-based AveXis is a specialist in spinal muscular atrophy and is in clinical trials for the first-ever one-time gene replacement therapy for the mostly fatal childhood disease.

The acquisition is a big move for Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan, who took the helm in February.

"The proposed acquisition of AveXis offers an extraordinary opportunity to transform the care of SMA. We believe AVXS-101 could create a lifetime of possibilities for the children and families impacted by this devastating condition," Narasimhan said in a statement.

"The acquisition would also accelerate our strategy to pursue high-efficacy, first-in-class therapies and broaden our leadership in neuroscience. We would gain with the team at AveXis another gene therapy platform, in addition to our CAR-T platform for cancer, to advance a growing pipeline of gene therapies across therapeutic areas," he added.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted AVXS-101 Orphan Drug designation for the treatment of SMA as well as Breakthrough Therapy designation for SMA Type 1. A BLA filing with the FDA for AVXS-101 is expected in the second half of 2018 and approval and launch in the US is expected in 2019.

The move by Narasimhan follows the $13 billion sale of Novartis' stake in a consumer health joint venture to partner GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) . At the time Narasimhan said the deal will allow the company to "allocate capital to grow our core businesses, drive shareholder returns, and execute value creating bolt-on acquisitions as we continue to build the leading medicines company, powered by digital and data."

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