AstraZeneca acquires rights to promising respiratory drug

AstraZeneca is to pay up to $225 million to develop and market a respiratory drug which could help restore its position in the therapy area.

The company has a heritage in respiratory drugs, but has so far failed to produce any follow-ups to its blockbuster Symbicort drug, which loses key patents next year.

In an effort to address this, AstraZeneca has signed a deal with Synairgen for SNG001, a novel, inhaled interferon beta (IFN-beta) in development for treating respiratory tract viral infections in patients with severe asthma.

SNG001 supports the immune system by correcting a deficiency which makes patients vulnerable to respiratory tract viral infections.

Small cap broker Cenkos told The Financial Times that SNG001 has blockbuster potential, thanks to the promise of being able to treat serious viral infections which can hospitalise patients.

AstraZeneca will pay Synairgen a $7.25 million up-front fee and potential development, regulatory and commercial milestones of up to $225 million. Synairgen, based in Southampton, will also receive tiered royalties ranging from single-digit up to mid-teens on commercial sales. AstraZeneca company will be responsible for future development costs.

AstraZeneca is now set to commence a Phase IIa study in patients with severe asthma, building on available clinical data from an initial Phase lla trial in a broad asthma population. SNG001 may also be developed for other pulmonary diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The licensing deal is part of AstraZeneca’s wider drive to bolster its pipelines across its key therapy areas. The company has just repelled a takeover bid from Pfizer, but now must deliver on promises to rapidly increase its revenues over the next decade.

Maarten Kraan, head of Respiratory, Inflammation & Autoimmune Innovative Medicines, AstraZeneca, said: “Respiratory disease is a core therapeutic area for AstraZeneca, and a key growth platform for the company. Our approach includes addressing associated complications that patients experience, as well as developing treatments for the underlying disease. SNG001 is an innovative and targeted therapy that has, if successful, the potential to offer a step-change in the treatment of severe asthma, and possibly COPD.”

Other major pharma companies are launching new respiratory drugs, including AstraZeneca’s British rival GSK, which is set to launch its new COPD combination treatment Anoro in Europe in the next few weeks.

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