The deal, confirmed this week, saw Shire purchase Swedish biotech company Premacure for an undisclosed fee. Premacure has been developing a protein replacement therapy for the prevention of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
According to Shire spokeswoman Jessica Cotrone, ROP “is a devastating disease, with high unmet medical need and only palliative treatment available.” It is a rare eye disorder affecting premature infants and a common cause of childhood visual loss.
As a provider of therapies for a number of rare diseases Cotrone said Shire is “always looking to partner or acquire companies who have life-altering therapies and are looking for a global development and commercial partner.”
She continued to say the acquisition of Premacure and its ROP asset “was the right strategic fit” and allows Shire to get into neonatology, a new therapeutic area.
Premacure’s ROP therapy is currently in late Phase II development and the company intends to add it to its Human Genetic Therapy (HGT) pipeline. The first goal is to continue studies in restoring IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1) levels in premature babies to avoid the development of complications from ROP.
According to Shire, around 15,000 preterm infants are affected by ROP in the US each year with up to 1,500 requiring medical treatment.
Shire produces and markets a number of orphan drugs – specific therapies that target rare diseases - including Velaglucerase alfa, a long-term enzyme replacement therapy for those suffering of Gaucher disease, Hunter syndrome drug Elaprase and Replagal which treats Fabry disease.
In the US and Europe orphan drug laws offer companies tax breaks, easier routes to marketing approval and extended periods of exclusivity.
Adrian Howd, a Berenberg Bank analyst told Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine of the benefits for pharma companies: “They’re small addressable markets with a limited number of people, so you don’t have to provide as much infrastructure.”