British pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca plc (AZN) has agreed to sell its Myalept drug to Nasdaq-listed Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AEGR) for an upfront payment of $325 million, both sides announced on Thursday, Nov. 6.
Myalept is an injectable form of metreleptin, a synthetic form of the hormone leptin, and is used to treat types of lipodystrophy, a rare disease associated with the loss of fat tissue. It is considered an orphan product in the U.S., the European Union and Japan, despite AstraZeneca's recognition that the condition it treats creates "a significant unmet medical need that can impact every aspect of a patient's health." AstraZeneca is divesting the drug to concentrate on products with a larger potential market and said the sale would allow for a redeployment of resources to achieve that. Aegerion. of Cambridge, Mass, believes the acquisition will fit well with is focus on rare diseases.
"We plan to apply our team's first-hand experience in bringing a novel therapy for a rare dyslipidemia to patients who have previously had inadequate therapeutic alternatives," said Aegerion CEO Marc Beer in a statement. "We expect the Myalept business to be highly synergistic with our current operations."
Generalized lipodystrophy consists of a rare set of syndromes that are inherited or acquired through an autoimmune response and are characterized by a loss of fat tissue. The underlying reason is a deficiency in leptin, the hormone which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. It can lead to severe insulin resistance and diabetes and related problems. However, there are a number of restrictions on its use, including that it is not indicated for use in patients with HIV-related lipodystrophy.
The deal comes as AstraZeneca announced third-quarter results, showing a third consecutive quarter of revenue growth. Revenue in the third quarter was $6.54 billion, up 5%, while nine-month revenue was up 4%. The company also raised its revenue guidance for the full year to an increase in low single digits compared with 2013, at current exchange rates, compared previous guidance for an outcome similar to 2013. It also said that earnings per share would decline less than previously expected, despite accelerating investment in its growth platforms and expanding its pipeline.
The improved outlook comes despite the distractions earlier this year of having to fend off the unwanted attentions of Pfizer Inc. which made a series of unsolicited offers culminating in a proposal worth £69.4 billion ($110.6 billion) before walking away.
AstraZeneca has made a number of acquisitions and sales since, including a deal to buy a respiratory drugs portfolio and pipeline from Spain's Almirall SA for $875 million, plus up to $1.22 billion in milestone payments. The agreement includes Almirall's Elkira inhaler, which had revenue of €107 million ($133.5 million) in the 12 months ended July, and other products in clinical and preclinical development. The company announced on Monday that the deal had closed.
One day later, AstraZeneca announced that its its MedImmune biologics research and development arm had agreed to acquire privately held cancer analysis company Definiens, of Munich for $150 million plus potential milestone payments.
By early afternoon on Thursday, AstraZeneca's shares were trading at 4,535 pence, down 1.8%.