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AstraZeneca boosts R&D prospects with Pearl acquisition

Deal to acquire respiratory firm could be worth up to $1.15bn

AstraZeneca AZ headquarters London UK

AstraZeneca (AZ) is set to purchase respiratory specialist Pearl Therapeutics in a deal that could be worth up to $1.15bn as it continues its acquisitive strategy to shore up its flagging product pipeline.

The pharma company has been busy adding to its research prospects ever since CEO Pascal Soriot overhauled the company's approach to R&D in March this year to cope with a series of pipeline failures and patent expiries.

These deals include collaboration agreements with Moderna Therapeutics, the Karolinska Institutet and Oxford Cancer Biomarkers, as well as a licence agreement with Bind Therapeutics and the purchase of US biotechs AlphaCore Pharma and Omthera Pharmaceuticals.

Now AZ can add to that list a promising portfolio of respiratory products in development by Pearl, including lead candidate PT003, currently in phase III trials to study its use in the treatment chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

PT003 is one of several drugs in development that combine a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) with a long-acting beta agonist (LABA), both of which are already used separately to treat respiratory conditions.

In the case of PT003, these molecules are the LAMA glycopyrrolate and the LABA formoterol fumarate.

Other similar drugs set to herald a breakthrough in the treatment of respiratory conditions include GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) Anoro, which is currently under review in both the US and the EU; Novartis' QVA149, which has been filed in the EU and Japan; and Boehringer Ingelheim's olodaterol/tiotropium, which is still in development.

AZ will be banking on PT003's ability to compete in this new class of medicines, with much of its ambition based on the drug's potential as a triple fixed dose combination that also includes an inhaled corticosteroid.

This is reflected in the financial breakdown of the deal, which comprises an upfront payment of $560m, as well as milestones of $450m depending on the development of a triple combination therapy, or selected future products, using Pearl's technology platform.

Pearl could also receive sales-related payments of up to a further $140m.

AZ's CEO Soriot said the acquisition of Pearl complemented the company's current respiratory portfolio, which is currently dominated by Symbicort and Pulmicort, although both products are set to face heavy losses to generic competition.

“Pearl's novel formulation technology, together with its development products and specialist expertise are a great complement to AstraZeneca's long-established capabilities in respiratory disease, one of our core therapy areas,” said Soriot.

Other respiratory prospects for AZ include the JAK inhibitor R256 licensed last year from Rigel Pharmaceuticals in a deal that could be worth up to $100m.

11th June 2013

From: Research

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