An upfront payment of $160m (€124m) will see Shire purchase Californian ophthalmic company SARcode Bioscience and add its lead product, lifitegrast, to its specialist drug portfolio. The deal comes less than two weeks after this publication reported Shire had snapped up Swedish biotech company, Premacure, along with its infant blindness candidate.
Spokeswoman for Shire, Jessica Mann, told in-Pharmatechnologist.com the two deals together created “a foundation to build in the specialist area of ophthalmology.”
She also said that the “acquisition brings with it a phase III product (lifitegrast) which has great potential to meet significant patient needs” in targeting the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease.
At present there is only one prescription product available in the US for sufferers of dry eye disease. Restasis, marketed by Allergan, is used to treat chronic dry eye but according to Mann it only targets the signs and not the symptoms. Therefore Shire is hoping lifitegrast can make an impact in a market it estimates was worth $13bn last year.
New CEO, New Direction?
Shire, headquartered in Ireland, is well established as a specialist drug company, focusing on niche areas and orphan drugs. Its biggest sellers include the Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drugs Adderall and Vyvanse.
This recent move to ophthalmology is, according to Shire, still consistent with Shire’s specialty focus yet has been influenced significantly by Dr. Flemming Ornskov who will become CEO at the end of April. Ornskov, who has been Chief Executive Designate at Shire since the start of the year, replaces retiring Angus Russell who has served at Shire for 12 years.
Ornskov has a long history in the field of ophthalmics and, with the acquisitions of SARcode and Premacure, his influence is showing at Shire.
“He ran ophthalmology franchises at Novartis, Bausch & Lomb and most recently Bayer,” said Mann. His “experience” is a major factor in “moving forward” in this specified area.
Speaking last year on the announcement of his appointment, Ornskov said: “I'm motivated and inspired by the Company's vision and excited to bring the combination of my medical, multi-national and entrepreneurial business background to lead Shire to the next phase of its development.”