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AstraZeneca Acquires Respiratory Disease Therapy Developer

Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca UK Ltd)

Pascal Soriot (AstraZeneca UK Ltd)

The global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is buying Pearl Therapeutics in Redwood City, California, a developer of treatments for chronic respiratory diseases. The deal is valued initially at $560 million, but has a total potential value of $1.15 billion, adding in subsequent milestone and royalty payments.

The seven year-old Pearl Therapeutics develops small-molecule treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. COPD is a group of progressive disorders including emphysema that make breathing difficult and resulting in mucus buildups in the lungs.

COPD is most associated with tobacco smoke, and most people with COPD are current or former smokers, but it can also be triggered by long-term exposure to pollutants or chemical fumes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and in 2011 it was the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Pearl Therapeutics’ drug-delivery technology provides stable aerosol suspensions of porous particles that work in metered dose inhalers using environmentally-friendly hydrofluoroalkane propellants. Earlier inhalers had propellants made from chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer in the atmosphere and were phased out in 2008. Metered dose inhalers are the most widely used method for delivering COPD and asthma drugs.

The company’s lead product, code-named PT003, is a combination of the drugs glycopyrrolate and formoterol taken twice a day with a metered dose inhaler. Pearl Therapeutics says PT003 is in late-stage (phase 3) clinical trials, having completed early safety and small-sample efficiacy tests.

Under the deal, AstraZeneca will pay an initial $560 million for all Pearl Therapeutic shares, with another $450 million contingent on development and regulatory milestones from future selected products made with Pearl Therapeutic’s technology, including triple-combination products. Up to $140 million in additional payments will be made contingent on exceeding pre-agreed sales targets.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s CEO (pictured at top), says the acquisition will bolster AstraZeneca’s respiratory product line that includes combination treatments delivered with an inhaler. The company aims to develop a triple-combination product that adds inhaled corticosteroids to Pearl Therapeutics’ PT003 ingredients.

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