AstraZeneca in £740m deal for respiratory firm

ASTRAZENECA is to buy US respiratory drug specialist Pearl Therapeutics for up to $1.15bn (£740m) as it steps up a drive to rebuild its product pipeline via deal-making.

Buying California-based Pearl fills a gap in AstraZeneca’s respiratory portfolio, although it will still be behind rivals including GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis in the race to develop the new type of inhaled drug.

AstraZeneca said yesterday it will pay an initial $560m plus up to $450m if certain development milestones are hit as well as sales-related payments of up to a further $140m.

The transaction is an important bet by new chief executive Pascal Soriot, who took over last October, on the company’s respiratory business, which he has identified as a core therapy area.

AstraZeneca’s sales and profits are falling as older medicines lose patent protection and the company badly needs new products to replace former big sellers like the antipsychotic Seroquel, which lost exclusivity last year. The deal is Soriot’s second bolt-on acquisition in two weeks, following an agreement to buy Omthera Pharmaceuticals for as much as $443m to build up its cardiovascular business.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013, will have no impact on AstraZeneca’s financial guidance for the year, the drugmaker said.

Pearl’s backers, who stand to gain from the sale, include 5AM Ventures, Clarus Ventures, New Leaf Ventures and Vatera Healthcare Partners.

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