AstraZeneca to acquire respiratory drug company Pearl Therapeutics in $1.15 bn deal

Pascal SoriotAnglo-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca will acquire US respiratory drug specialist Pearl Therapeutics for up to $1.15 billion in order to strengthen its respiratory portfolio.

The acquisition will give AstraZeneca access to a potential new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), currently in late-stage development, and inhaler and formulation technology that provides a platform for future combination products.

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

Under the terms of the deal, London-based AstraZeneca will pay Pearl $560 million on completion, and up to $450 million in deferred payments if specified development and regulatory milestones in respect of any triple combination therapies and selected future products that AstraZeneca develops using Pearl's technology platform are achieved.

It will also pay a further $140 million if pre-agreed cumulative sales thresholds are exceeded, taking the entire deal value to $1.15 billion.

Founded in 2006 and backed by 5AM Ventures, Clarus Ventures, New Leaf Ventures and Vatera Healthcare Partners, California-based Pearl is developing inhaled combination therapies for the treatment of highly prevalent respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Pearl's lead product, PT003, is a fixed dose combination of formoterol fumarate, a long-acting beta-2-agonist (LABA) and glycopyrrolate, a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA).

LABA / LAMA combinations are expected to become an important new class of treatment for COPD. A global Phase III programme has been initiated and will test the improvement in lung function in individuals with moderate to severe COPD in response to PT003.

PT003 is delivered by inhalation via a pressurised metered dose inhaler (pMDI) using Pearl's novel co-suspension formulation technology.

This technology platform will allow AstraZeneca to explore combinations of existing and novel technologies, including a triple fixed dose combination, which could be accelerated into Phase II clinical development.

COPD is a progressive disease associated mainly with tobacco smoking, air pollution or occupational exposure, which can cause obstruction of airflow in the lungs resulting in debilitating bouts of breathlessness.

It affects an estimated 210 million people worldwide and is predicted to be the third leading cause of death by 2020.

''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,'' Soriot said.

Kevin Ferro, chairman of Pearl and CEO of Vatera Healthcare Partners, Pearl's lead investor, said, ''We believe AstraZeneca will provide significant value in supporting the further development and registration of our lead product, PT003, and in leveraging our technology platform to realise future products including a triple agent therapy for respiratory disease.''

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013.