LEXINGTON, Massachusetts, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Shire plc (LSE: SHP, NASDAQ: SHPG) today announced that it will acquire SARcode Bioscience Inc., a privately held biopharmaceutical company based in Brisbane, California. This acquisition continues to build Shire's presence in the ophthalmology therapeutic category and brings a new phase 3 compound - LIFITEGRAST - currently under development for the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease, into Shire's portfolio. Shire anticipates launching LIFITEGRAST in the United States as early as 2016 pending a positive outcome of the phase 3 clinical development program and regulatory approvals. Shire is acquiring the global rights to LIFITEGRAST and will evaluate an appropriate regulatory filing strategy for markets outside of the United States. Some 25 million people in the United States suffer from dry eye disease, and, of the approximate 9 million patients who are candidates for prescription drug treatment, approximately 10% are treated with the only currently approved prescription product for dry eye disease, indicated to help increase the eyes' natural ability to produce tears, which may be suppressed by inflammation due to chronic dry eye. However, there is no approved treatment indication which includes symptoms of dry eye (one of the most common complaints to eye care specialists). "The acquisition of SARcode is a demonstration of Shire's focus on continuing to build our research and development pipeline with innovative, well-differentiated assets that address significant unmet patient need," said Flemming Ornskov, M.D., Shire's CEO Designate. "This acquisition and our recent acquisition of Premacure have the potential to provide the basis for an attractive ophthalmology business for our company, given the significant growth opportunities in this therapeutic area as well as Shire's proven expertise in specialist markets." The global ophthalmic pharmaceutical market, valued at approximately $13 billion in 2012 with a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent, is consistent with Shire's focus on the specialty market. There are approximately 42,000 office-based ophthalmologists, optometrists and retinal specialists in the United States. Under the terms of agreement, Shire will make an upfront payment of $160 million and SARcode shareholders will be eligible to receive additional undisclosed payments upon achievement of certain clinical, regulatory, and/or commercial milestones. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to regulatory approval in the United States, and other customary closing conditions. The acquisition of SARcode will introduce a new late-stage phase 3 clinical program to Shire's research and development portfolio. Shire is currently conducting a prioritization review of its portfolio to accommodate this new expenditure in 2013.