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.