June 10, 2013 8:43 am

AstraZeneca buys inhaled drug specialist

AstraZeneca has acted to bolster its dwindling drug pipeline with the acquisition of a Californian-based respiratory medication specialist in a deal worth as much as $1.15bn.

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals group on Monday said it had agreed to pay an initial $560m for Pearl Therapeutics, a privately owned developer of inhaled treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

A further $450m is due in regulatory and development milestone payments, and an additional $140m will also be paid should sales targets be met, bringing the total possible price tag to $1.15bn.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca chief executive, said: “Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease continues to increase worldwide and there is a growing need for the next generation of inhaled combination products.”

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease causes the airways to narrow over time, limiting airflow to the lungs and causing shortness of breath.

Mr Soriot said: “Pearl’s novel formulation technology, together with its development products and specialist expertise, are a great complement to AstraZeneca’s long-established capabilities in respiratory disease.”

The FTSE 100 drugmaker said the acquisition of Pearl’s technology would complement its own asthma treatment Symbicort.

Pearl’s particular attraction for AstraZeneca is its lead product, known as PT003, which it hopes will become a new type of treatment for respiratory diseases.

The inhaled drug is in its third and final testing phase to determine whether it improves lung function in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

AstraZeneca has had a poor recent run of developmental drugs.

The company was this month hit by the failure of fostamatinib, an arthritis drug with forecast annual sales of more than $1bn.

The company’s sales have also suffered from the launch in some markets of cheaper generic competitors to its Seroquel IR schizophrenia drug and Atacand, a hypertension drug sold under licence.

AstraZeneca, which this year said it would cut 5,000 jobs by 2016, has also been affected by the loss of exclusivity for sales of Crestor, a cholesterol medication, in Canada.

Savvas Neophytou, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: “Some might choke on the price of the asset, but to us AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Pearl Therapeutics was strategically important and had to be done. AstraZeneca’s respiratory business corresponds to some 16 per cent of revenues and its pipeline was threadbare in our view.”

Shares in the drugmaker, which have risen 25 per cent over the past year, were up 0.6 per cent at £33.23 in London afternoon trading.

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