Spending spree continues with two more deals

AstraZeneca (AZ) has committed to two more acquisitions to bolster its drug pipeline. The UK-based company will buy US respiratory specialist Pearl Therapeutics for an up-front payment of $560 million (£360 million), with potential for a further $690 million on reaching appropriate milestones.

AZ is also buying Omthera Pharmaceuticals for an up-front payment of $323 million, with a potential $120 million in milestone payments on offer.

In contrast to AZ’s other recently-announced deals, which were with very early-stage companies, both Pearl and Omthera have drugs that are well advanced in clinical trials.

Pearl’s lead product, PT003, has just begun Phase III trials against chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a combination of formoterol fumarate, a long-acting b2-adrenergic receptor agonist (LABA), and glycopyrrolate, a long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonist (LAMA). The acquisition brings AZ into the race to develop a successful LAMA–LABA combination drug for COPD. Both Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline (in partnership with Theravance) have ongoing trials involving similar drugs.

Omthera has just completed two Phase III trials of its dyslipidemia drug, Epanova. The drug’s mixture of fatty acids refined from fish oil can help rebalance the lipid content of patients’ blood, and lower cholesterol levels.