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Shire agrees $325m deal to acquire US biotech FerroKin BioSciences

Irish pharma firm gains rights to iron overload drug candidate and expands its haematological business

Shire Pharmaceuticals is to acquire US-based biotech FerroKin BioSciences in a deal worth up to $325m.

Shire said the purchase was a 'strategic step' in building its haematological business and will give it access to FerroKin's FBS0701, which is currently in phase II development for treatment of individuals with too much iron in their system, but could be launched by 2016.

There is a 'significant unmet' in this therapy area, according to Shire, with FBS0701's once-daily oral form offering an advantage over current treatments such as bloodletting and Novartis' Desferal (deferoxamine mesylate), which is administered as a subcutaneous injection.

The investigational therapy has received orphan drug designation from both US and EU regulators, with initial data from an ongoing phase II study to be presented at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting in December.

Global filings are planned for indications to treat myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and hemoglobinopathies, both of which can result in anaemia – a condition that often leads to an overload of iron due to the numerous blood transfusions that patients undergo.

If this excess iron builds up in organs, such as the liver and heart, it can potentially lead to organ failure.

FBS0701 is being developed to treat patients with iron overload through chelation – the act of binding to a metal ion to create a new inert ion and detoxify the body.

Shire's haematology portfolio already includes Xagrid (anagrelide hydrochloride), which treats elevated platelet counts in at risk essential thrombocythemia patients and last year increased its sales by 4 per cent to $90.6m.

“We hope to use our expertise in haematology coupled with our proven ability to progress products through the development pipeline to bring FBS0701 to the global marketplace,” said Ross Murdoch, specialty pharmaceuticals senior VP at Shire.

“This acquisition marks an important step for Shire in building a business that serves the growing needs of specialty haematologists and their patients.”

The Irish firm will pay an upfront fee of $100m, with FerroKin legible for milestone payments of up to $225m.

16th March 2012

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