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Baxter buoys cancer presence with $900m Oncaspar deal

Leukaemia drug will be added to upcoming biopharma firm Baxalta

Baxter building 

Baxter has agreed a $900m deal to buy a leukaemia drug from Italian drugmaker Sigma-Tau in a move that will increase its presence in oncology.

Oncaspar (pegaspargase) - a product used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) with annual sales of around $100m in markets such as the US, Germany and Poland - will be added to the portfolio of drugs that Baxter intends to spin out into a new speciality biopharma company called Baxalta later this year.

Sigma-Tau's rare disease portfolio has been the subject of a lot of speculation in recent weeks as a wave of M&A activity sweeps through the rare and orphan disease therapy sector, with suggestions Shire or Jazz Pharma may be interested in the unit.

In addition to Oncaspar the deal includes a new, freeze-dried formulation of Oncaspar that has a longer shelf life than its parent, and a longer-acting follow-up called calaspargase pegol (EZN-2285) that could offer less frequent dosing in ALL. It also provides "an established oncology infrastructure with clinical and sales resources."

Calaspargase pegol is in the latter stages of clinical development, and according to Sigma-Tau's website will be filed for approval in the coming months. Baxter said it would also investigate Oncaspar in additional ALL indications as well as in acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

"Oncaspar is a strong strategic fit for our rapidly expanding oncology business, as it complements our R&D programmes in haematologic cancers," said David Meek, head of oncology at Baxter's Bioscience division. 

The deal will give Baxalta a commercial presence in the EU and US and help the company capitalise on the rapidly growing oncology market, with "an estimated $10bn total market potential across current oncology indications for Baxter's pipeline assets", he added. 

The acquisition will be funded with a combination of cash and debt and is expected to close in the third quarter.

There are about 5,000 new cases of ALL a year in the US and 4,000 in Europe, said Baxter. There are a number of other ALL candidates coming through the development pipeline, including Amgen's Blincyto (blinatumomab) that was approved by the FDA towards the end of 2014, and Novartis' CAR T therapy CTL019 which is in phase II testing.

Article by
Phil Taylor

13th May 2015

From: Sales

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