Shire builds rare disease portfolio with Lumena acquisition
Shire is to pay $260 million for Lumena Pharmaceuticals, a company with a rare diseases portfolio in gastrointestinal and hepatic diseases.
Shire is one of the leaders in the rare diseases field, and has so far resisted a buyout from any of the big pharma players. Its move for San-Diego-based Lumena will help it consolidate its position, with two of the firm’s compounds showing particular promise.
LUM001 is a drug in Phase 2 development for four rare and devastating hepatic diseases – two paediatric and two adult with a potential 2016 approval. Meanwhile the company’s other lead candidate LUM002 is a Phase 2-ready molecule for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
(NASH), a common and often “silent” liver disease in which fat deposits build up in the liver, causing inflammation which can then progress to fibrosis.
The underlying mechanism of NASH is not fully understood, but it is strongly associated with obesity. An estimated six million people in the US have progressed to NASH and some 600,000 to NASH-related cirrhosis.
Shire will acquire Lumena for an upfront payment of $260 million in cash, plus a payment for net cash at closing, and near-term milestone payments, depending on the results of ongoing clinical trials.
Chief Executive of Shire, Flemming Ornskov, said the new acquisition would contribute to his company’s future growth. “We are excited by the possibilities of these new assets in liver disease. We have the resources, the infrastructure and the operating capacity to invest in these new potential growth drivers which add further value to Shire’s innovative pipeline.”
The acquisition is just the latest in a string of significant deals for the company. In November it bought Viro Pharma for $4.2 billion, bringing with it Cinryze, a treatment for inflammatory condition hereditary angioedema, which complements Shire’s Firazyr.
Then on 1 May, Shire announced the purchase of Fibrotech for $75 million, an Australian firm specialising in treatments for fibrosis, the serious tissue scarring which can affect a range of organs in the body.
Shire’s gastrointestinal business already generated revenues of over $800 million in 2013, and the company says the acquisition of Lumena brings with it expertise in liver disease which will work well alongside its own existing GI commercial infrastructure.
LUM001 and LUM002 are both inhibitors of the apical sodium-dependent bile acid transporter (ASBT), which recycles bile acids from the intestine to the liver. Blocking ASBT has the potential to improve liver function and relieve disease symptoms (such as extreme itching associated with cholestatic liver diseases), and may slow disease progression.
These rare cholestatic liver diseases are primarily treated by hepatologists and gastroenterologists and Shire says these can be covered by a small, specialty sales force consistent with its existing commercial model.
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