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AstraZeneca acquires Pearl Therapeutics to strengthen respiratory portfolio
LONDON—In a move meant to bolster its footprint in the respiratory field, AstraZeneca PLC has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Pearl Therapeutics, a Redwood City, Calif.-based company specializing in the development of inhaled small-molecule therapeutics for respiratory disease.
Per the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will acquire 100 percent of Pearl's shares for an initial consideration of $560 million payable upon completion. Pearl is eligible for deferred consideration of up to $450 million if certain development and regulatory milestones are achieved with regard to any triple combination therapies and selected future products that AstraZeneca develops utilizing Pearl's technology platform. Pearl also stands to receive sales-related payments of up to $140 million if agreed-upon cumulative sales goals are exceeded. The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals, and the closing is expected in the third quarter. The acquisition does not impact AstraZeneca's financial guidance for 2013.
"Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease continues to increase worldwide, and there is a growing need for the next generation of inhaled combination products," Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said in a press release. "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, one of our core therapy areas. Combined with our on-market portfolio, including Symbicort, and our strong pipeline, the agreement will enable us to offer further distinctive treatment options across the full spectrum of COPD and asthma to patients, physicians and payers."
"As we were thinking about an ideal partner for our program, we were looking for someone that had not only terrific commercial experience, but also terrific personnel on their side that would complement our own in the research and development and regulatory groups," says Lyn Baranowski, head of business development at Pearl. "We certainly think that AstraZeneca meets that very high standard that we had for ourselves."
Baranowski says Pearl will move forward as an AstraZeneca company, "maintaining our presence in our various facilities and … maintaining our team." The transaction, she adds, "has positioned us so far very well on the market to move forward aggressively with our lead assets."
Pearl's lead product candidate, PT003, is a fixed-dose combination of formoterol fumarate, a long-acting beta-2-agonist (LABA) and glycopyrrolate, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA). PT003 is delivered via a pressurized metered dose inhaler, using Pearl's novel co-suspension formulation technology, which is also the basis for Pearl's work into PT010, a triple fixed-dose combination of LABA/LAMA and an inhaled corticosteroid.
Baranowski says AstraZeneca has expressed "a lot of interest" in the triple combination, which she describes as taking PT003 and uniting it with the inhaled corticosteroid used in Symbicort.
"There are many patients right now already that are taking multiple medications, and so by combining multiple medications in one, it really makes the burden of disease and the burden of treatment for these patients significantly easier," Baranowski explains. "That triple therapy has been the Holy Grail in respiratory medicine for many years now, and AstraZeneca has been very supportive of really trying to move that forward into clinical development, so we'll be working on that with them in probably the next few months. It's very exciting for all of us."
COPD is a progressive lung disease, one seen most often in smokers or those who face air pollution or occupational exposure. The disease causes obstruction of airflow in the lungs as a result of airways and air sacs losing elasticity, inflammation or the overproduction of mucus. An estimated 210 million people suffer from COPD worldwide, and it is predicted to be the third leading cause of death by 2020.
Both AstraZeneca and Pearl see the COPD market as being ripe for growth. Despite the presence of effective treatments in this indication, Baranowski says the COPD market still has a large amount of unmet medical need. A spokesman for AstraZeneca notes that Decision Resources estimates the COPD markets totaled close to $9 billion in 2001. The market is expected to see annual growth of 4 percent between 2011 and 2021, in which sales are forecast to reach nearly $13.4 billion. AstraZeneca's spokesman adds that in the United States, they expect LAMA/LABA products will be prescribed for "at least one in five treated moderate to severe COPD patients."