Authored by James Sheppard
One of the people featured in the 13 life science people to watch in 2013 was Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov, who will officially take the helm as CEO-proper in May. It was clear that Shire needed to get out there and make deals, and Shire has been extremely active with their cash in Q1 2013 with 3 high profile purchases. They kicked off the year by acquiring Lotus Tissue Repair for their therapy for the rare disease dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB), a company that was part of the Third Rock Ventures portfolio. Following this they have completed the purchase of two other companies in the past month. The Swedish biotech Premacure was purchased on the 12th of March, followed by the US biotech SARcode on the 25th of March.
Premacure, launched in 2006, is developing protein replacement therapies for the prevention of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), one of the most common causes of childhood blindness. The drug is currently at the mid-point in Phase II clinical trials. Shire stated that Premacure will fit into their Human Genetic Therapies (rare disease) portfolio where they will continue with the phase II study.
Following the Premacure purchase, on Monday 25th March, Shire announced the purchase of privately owned biotech SARcode for $160m. The purchase expands Shire’s ophthalmology offering by acquiring the rights to a late stage drug in development for dry eye diseases. The deal was closed for an undisclosed upfront amount with added development and commercial milestone payments.
SARcode are developing a new eye drug called Lifitegrast, which is currently in phase III clinical trials. SARcode aims to have Lifitegrast available in the US by 2016 and other markets following this, providing phase III trials go to plan.
Shire’s chief executive designate, Flemming Ornskov , stated ‘With us now having made two acquisitions, I think we are sending a strong signal to both the external world and the internal world that we certainly will be looking at further opportunities in ophthalmology, if it is in areas of ophthalmology that we perceive to have high growth opportunities, significant unmet need where innovation is the key driver for differentiation.’ Dr Ornskov went on to say that although the two recent deals were in ophthalmology, the overall acquisition strategy for Shire would remain the same and he didn’t envisage any extra R&D costs associated with the purchases.
With the global ophthalmic market estimated to be worth $13bn in 2012 and growing by 4.5% a year, the market offers significant opportunities for small biotechs and large pharma alike. Shire stated that the therapeutic area was a good fit with its speciality medicines portfolio. Shire’s CEO designate has experience in the ophthalmology market from his previous roles with Bausch & Lomb, Novartis and Bayer where the ophthalmology units reported to him.
Dr Ornskov also opened the door to other companies by saying in a statement ‘I want to continue to send the signal to any company, particularly smaller companies, that if you are in speciality medicine, if you have a lot of innovation and if you are in an area of interest to Shire, you should look at Shire as a potential future partner.’ Dr Ornskov has clearly signalled his intent for more purchases meaning the coming months are sure to bring more deals. The markets will be tracking the moves of the new CEO very closely.
To read the full Shire press release on their Premacure purchase please click here
To read the full Shire press release on their SARcode purchase please click here