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AstraZeneca signs $2bn deal to buy Almirall respiratory portfolio

Will boost its pipeline prospects and inhaled device capabilities

AstraZeneca AZ HQAstraZeneca is to buy the rights to Almirall's respiratory franchise in an agreement which it says will boost its pipeline and aid a return to financial growth from 2016.

It is paying the Spanish group $875m on completion of the deal - which could be finalised by the end of the year - and as much as $1.22bn in development and sales milestones plus additional sales-related payments.

Respiratory, inflammatory and autoimmunity is one of AZ's stated core therapy areas for R&D, along with cardiovascular and metabolic disease, and oncology.

AZ's respiratory portfolio already includes Symbicort and Pulmicort, and the firm says Almirall offers complementary pipeline prospects and inhaled device capabilities in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Subsidiary company Almirall Sofotec, which specialises in innovative proprietary devices, is included in the deal, with a “significant number” of employees in respiratory being absorbed into AZ.

It all carries the imprint of AZ CEO Pascal Soriot: patent losses and pipeline failures have blighted AZ in recent years, but since taking over in 2012 he has brought confidence back to the company.

As well as resisting the $100bn overture from Pfizer earlier this year, Soriot has instigated a range of acquisitions and licence agreements. These include licensing the WEE1 inhibitor MK-1775 from Merck & Co, the $500m buyout of biotech Amplimmune and its portfolio of cancer antibodies, an alliance with the UK biotech Immunocore via AZ's MedImmune subsidiary plus the expansion of an existing personalised drug partnership with Horizon Discovery.

Commenting on the Almirall deal Soriot said: “We will benefit from immediate and growing product revenues which we anticipate will be rapidly accretive to earnings.

“By combining our innovative portfolios and leveraging AZ's global scientific and commercial capabilities, we will strengthen our ability to address the entire spectrum of care in asthma and COPD.”

Almirall's franchise includes Eklira (aclidinium), LAS40464 (a combination of aclidinium with formoterol, which has been filed in Europe), LAS100977 (abediterol), a once-daily phase II long-acting beta2-agonist (LABA), plus an M3 antagonist beta2-agonist (MABA) platform which is in pre-clinical development (LAS191351 and LAS194871) and phase I (LAS190792).

Getting hold of aclidinium and its combination with formoterol - both in the proprietary Genuair device - will give patients the choice between dry powder inhaler and metered dose inhaler devices across a range of molecules and combinations, AZ said.

Almirall president Jorge Gallardo said the AZ deal would “better develop our assets and expertise in respiratory”.

He added: “It also allows us to better balance the costs, risks and returns of the respiratory business while retaining an important economic interest in its future success.”

Article by
Adam Hill

31st July 2014

From: Research, Sales

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