When news of the Pearl acquisition broke last night coverage focused on the deal's impact on AstraZeneca’s candidate pipeline. continuing the pattern set last month when the UK major announced a $323m (€243m) plan to buy Omthera Pharmaceuticals.
With Omthera it was the candidate high-cholesterol treatment Epanova that drew all the attention, this time around its Pearl’s developmental chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug, PT003 that attracted the headlines.
This reaction is understandable given that PT003 will be the first combined long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) long acting β2-agonist (LABA) in AstraZeneca’s pipeline and may help the firm catch up with rivals GSK, Novartis, Boehringer Ingelheim and Forest, all of which have similar products in development.
But, unlike the Omthera deal, the Pearl acquisition will do more than add one drug candidate to AstraZeneca’s pipeline as buying the California, US-based firm will also bolt-on a particle engineering platform to the Anglo-Swedish drug major’s arsenal.
Pearl’s technology is used to make porous active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) particles that, the firm claims, make for more reproducible dosing and eliminates the need for co-solvents like ethanol.
The California, US company also says the platform can accelerate development, explaining on its website that: “Pearl has advanced multiple HFA-MDI products into the clinic in only seven to nine months from start of formulation in a format suitable for future commercialization.
“We believe that our robust formulation and manufacturing platform, our development team, and our development systems provide a high probability of clinical, regulatory, and technical success.”
The Pearl platform’s application in the development of drugs combining two APIs may have attracted the most attention. However, it is its potential in API inhalers that is likely to benefit AstraZeneca in the longer term according to analysts at Berenberg Bank.
They told Reuters that: “The greatest upside from the Pearl deal could come from the triple combination product, where AstraZeneca may be second to market, behind GSK.”
AstraZeneca did not respond to request for comment ahead of publication.