AstraZeneca in advanced talks to buy Acerta Pharma

AstraZeneca confirmed Monday that it is “exploring potential strategic options” with Acerta Pharma following recent speculation. AstraZeneca said “there can be no certainty that any transaction will ultimately be entered into,” adding that it “will make a further announcement if and when appropriate.”

According to people with knowledge of the situation, AstraZeneca is in advanced negotiations to acquire cancer-drug developer Acerta for more than $5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Some of the sources said the companies hope to reach an agreement by the end of the month, although they cautioned there is no assurance a deal will be reached.

Acerta’s lead compound acalabrutinib, also known as ACP-196, is currently under development for the treatment of various malignancies, including leukaemias and lymphomas. Earlier this month, the company announced Phase I/II data showing that the Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor was associated with a response rate of 95 percent among patients with relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. The experimental drug is also being investigated in combination with Merck & Co.’s immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Acalabrutinib works in a manner similar to AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica (ibrutinib), which was a key asset in the company’s move to purchasePharmacyclics for $21 billion earlier this year. Acerta also recently disclosed that acalabrutinib is being developed for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Last month, AstraZeneca reached a deal to purchase ZS Pharma for $90 per share in cash, or approximately $2.7 billion, bolstering its cardiovascular and metabolic diseases portfolio (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: An opportune move or did AstraZeneca jump the gun?). AstraZeneca has also identified oncology as eventually being the company’s largest contributor in terms of pipeline-driven revenue growth, potentially accounting for a quarter of sales by 2023. In November, the FDA approvedAstraZeneca’s Tagrisso (osimertinib) for certain patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, with the company anticipating the drug will generate annual sales of $3 billion.

Separately, AstraZeneca unveiled a three-year agreement with the Wallenberg Centre for Protein Research concentrating on the development of new technologies for biologics production and identifying new disease targets in the secretome.

14 – December – 2015