12:00 AM
 | 
Apr 01, 2013
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Shire sees opportunity

Incoming Shire CEO outlines ophthalmics strategy after SARcode, Premacure deals

With two ophthalmics deals in as many weeks, Shire plc has revealed the next specialty area in which it wants a foothold. The company believes the small size of the ophthalmic practitioner population - about 42,000 in the U.S. - as well as the availability of novel targets, make it a good fit.

The first deal came on March 12 when Shire announced the acquisition of Premacure AB. The Swedish company's Premiplex (formerly iPlex) is in Phase II testing to prevent retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a rare disease that primarily affects premature infants and can lead to blindness. The protein replacement therapy includes a complex of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and its principal binding protein, IGFBP-3.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Just 13 days later, Shire said it would acquire ophthalmics company SARcode Bioscience Inc. for $160 million up front, plus undisclosed milestones. The deal provides lifitegrast (SAR 1118), an eye drop formulation of a small molecule LFA-1 (CD11a-CD18) antagonist in Phase III testing for dry eye.

"In an area like ophthalmology, we have a clearly defined target audience with well known unmet needs in the back of the eye as well as some front of the eye diseases like dry eye and a lot of scientific breakthroughs lately in terms of targeted therapies," Shire CEO-designate Flemming Ornskov told BioCentury.

Premature need

The first two assets in Shire's ophthalmics basket fit the mold of targeted therapies in diseases with few or no available treatment options.

ROP affects children born before 31 weeks of gestation and is the most common cause of vision loss in childhood. There are no drugs approved for the indication and treatment is limited to cryotherapy and laser therapy. To be effective, the treatment must be administered within 72 hours of diagnosis. Surgery also may be necessary if the retina detaches.

A primary driver for ROP is thought to be the early loss of hormones like IGF-1 that are delivered in utero. Premiplex thus...

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