- AstraZeneca (AZ) on Thursday announced it had bought 55% of the private Acerta Pharma for $4 billion. The deal also includes an option for Acerta's stakeholders to sell the remaining 45% of shares to AZ for an additional $3 billion, conditional on the approval in the U.S. and Europe of Acerta's blood cancer drug.
- Acerta's blood cancer drug, acalabrutinib, is a Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk) inhibitor and is currently in Phase 3 trials for B-cell blood cancers, as well as Phase 1/2 trials for multiple solid tumors.
- If approved, acalabrutinib could compete with Johnson & Johnson/AbbVie’s star cancer med Imburuvica (ibrutinib). AZ sees acalabrutinib as potentially best-in-class, with fewer side effects than Imburuvica.
With this majority stake in Acerta, AZ could possibly compete head-on with J&J/AbbVie's Imbruvica. In a statement Thursday, AZ's CEO, Pascal Soriot said, "We are boosting a key area in our comprehensive oncology portfolio with a late-stage, potential best-in-class medicine that could transform treatment for patients across a range of blood cancers."
AZ indicated they plan to submit acalabrutinib for approval in the second half of 2016. The company projects the drug could reach peak sales of $5 billion a year globally.
Soriot has repeatedly emphasized AZ's goal of hitting $45 billion in sales by 2023, predicting much of this growth will come from its oncology pipeline. Acalabrutinib sales would be added on top of that target, and would be a boost to the company's oncology prospects.
The $4 billion acquisition is broken into two parts. AZ will pay Acerta $2.5 billion upfront, and then a further $1.5 billion on either the receipt of a regulatory approval for acalabrutinib or the end of 2018, whichever occurs first.