AstraZeneca is to buy U.S. respiratory drug specialist Pearl Therapeutics for up to $1.15 billion, as Britain's second biggest drugmaker steps up a drive to rebuild its product pipeline via deal-making.
The acquisition of the privately held company secures AstraZeneca a position in the emerging market for a new class of lung treatments known as LABA/LAMA drugs that promise improved patient compliance and disease control, without steroids.
Some industry analysts believe that LABA/LAMA inhalers are set to dominate future therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes debilitating breathlessness and affects an estimated 210 million people worldwide.
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AstraZeneca said on Monday it will pay an initial $560 million plus up to $450 million if certain development milestones are hit as well as sales-related payments of up to a further $140 million.
The transaction is an important bet by new chief executive Pascal Soriot, who took over last October, on the British company's respiratory business, which he has identified as a core business area.
AstraZeneca's sales and profits are falling as older medicines lose patent protection and the company badly needs new products to replace former big sellers like the antipsychotic Seroquel, which lost exclusivity last year.
It already has a successful existing inhaled respiratory drug in Symbicort but had risked falling behind rivals like GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis in the race to bring LABA/LAMA inhalers to market.
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