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Roche boosts respiratory presence with InterMune purchase

Deal is fourth takeover in three months for Swiss pharma company
Roche Basel Switzerland

Roche has chalked up yet another acquisition - its fourth in three months - by agreeing an $8.3bn takeover for US biotech InterMune.

The Swiss pharma major has agreed to acquire California-based InterMune for $74 per share in cash in order to gain control of a pipeline of respiratory and fibrotic disease therapies including Esbriet (pirfenidone) for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is already on the market in the EU and Canada and is under regulatory review in the US.

IPF is a progressive, irreversible and ultimately fatal disease characterised by progressive loss of lung function due to scarring in the lungs.

Esbriet chalked up $67m in sales in the first half of the year and is predicted to become a $1bn product at peak on the back of data from the ASCEND study - released in May - which showed treatment with the drug significantly reduced disease progression over a year and improved progression-free survival (PFS).

Esbriet could however face competition in the market soon from Boehringer Ingelheim's nintedanib, which could be approved for IPF in Europe before the end of the year.

The FDA is scheduled to rule on the drug alter this year after rejecting it in 2010, but in a positive sign for InterMune has suggested it will not require an advisory committee meeting this time around. Approval in the US will add another 70,000 or so patients to the target population for Esbriet, according to the US firm.

With InterMune, Roche has continued its run of targeted acquisitions that are complementary to its current activities. These include a $450m deal to acquire gene silencing specialist Santaris earlier this month, an offering of $1.7bn for cancer company Seragon in July and a $350m bargain for sequencing specialist Genia in June.

The latest deal look likely to quash any suggestions that Roche might be angling to acquire full control of its Japanese partner Chugai, which saw its shares give up around half of the 20 per cent gain in recent weeks on speculation of an imminent deal.

Esbriet provides Roche with another respiratory disease asset to sit alongside drugs such as lebrikizumab for severe asthma, which is in phase III testing, as well as older marketed products such as asthma drug Xolair (omalizumab) and Pulmozyme (dornase alfa) for cystic fibrosis.

Pirfenidone is also being developed in phase II trials for another rare respiratory indication - systemic sclerosis-related interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD) - and at the moment the drug remains InterMune's primary asset, with all other projects - including a pirfenidone follow-up - back in preclinical development.

The move for InterMune is the largest M&A deal for Roche since it took control of Genentech for $44bn in 2008. The company said it expected the latest deal to be earnings neutral in 2015 and start to add to the bottom line the following year.

Article by
Phil Taylor

26th August 2014

From: Research

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