Shire expands opthalmology business with $160-mn acquisition of SARcode Bioscience

Shire Plc, the UK's third-biggest drugmaker, yesterday said that it would acquire SARcode Bioscience for $160 million in order to win rights of the US biopharmaceutical company's new drug in late-stage development for dry-eye diseases.

EyeThe deal comes less than two weeks after Shire acquired Sweden's ophthalmology company Premacure.

California-based privately-held SARcode is developing novel molecules that specifically target chronic T-cell mediated inflammation in ophthalmic disease.

The venture-backed company's lead program involves the development of the lifitegrast ophthalmic solution, which is currently in late-stage clinical trials for the treatment of dry eye disease.

Shire said that some 25 million people in the US suffer from dry-eye disease, and, of the approximate 9 million patients who are candidates for prescription drug treatment, approximately 10 per cent are treated with the only currently approved prescription product for dry eye disease, indicated to help increase the eyes' natural ability to produce tears, which may be suppressed by inflammation due to chronic dry eye.

However, there is no approved treatment indication which includes symptoms of dry eye (one of the most common complaints to eye care specialists).

According to Shire, the global ophthalmic pharmaceutical market was approximately $13 billion in 2012 and has a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 per cent.

Under the terms of deal, Dublin-based Shire will make an upfront payment of $160 million and SARcode investors will be eligible to receive additional undisclosed payments upon achievement of certain clinical, regulatory, and/or commercial milestones.

''The acquisition of SARcode is a demonstration of Shire's focus on continuing to build our research and development pipeline with innovative, well-differentiated assets that address significant unmet patient need,'' said Flemming Ornskov, MD, Shire's CEO-designate.

''This acquisition and our recent acquisition of Premacure have the potential to provide the basis for an attractive ophthalmology business for our company, given the significant growth opportunities in this therapeutic area as well as Shire's proven expertise in specialist markets.''

Shire was originally headquartered in Hampshire, UK, but moved its corporate office to Dublin and created a new holding company in Jersey in the Channel Island to avoid high taxes on global earning in the UK.

Ireland's corporate taxes are far lower than the UK and patents lodged in Ireland are tax free.

Shire focuses its business on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, human genetic therapies and GI diseases as well as opportunities in other therapeutic areas through acquisitions.

Shire's in-licensing, merger and acquisition efforts are focused on products in specialist markets with strong intellectual property protection and global rights.

With a market cap of $11 billion, the company posted net profit of $745 million in 2012 on revenues of $4.6 billion.