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AstraZeneca acquires Caelum Biosciences for rare-disease drugs

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AstraZeneca is buying Caelum Biosciences via its subsidiary Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Photo: Getty Images
AstraZeneca is buying Caelum Biosciences via its subsidiary Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Photo: Getty Images

AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) subsidiary Alexion Pharmaceuticals is set to buy Caelum Biosciences, which is developing a treatment for a rare disease called AL amyloidosis, in a deal worth up to $500m (£370m).

AstraZeneca's shares were up 2.4% on Wednesday morning in line with the broader market, and it was among the FTSE 100's (^FTSE) top risers.

"AstraZeneca shares have been buoyed by a deal aimed at cementing the construction of its rare disease portfolio with the acquisition of Caelum BioSciences," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.

She said the pandemic has been bad news for AstraZeneca’s bottom line because even as vaccine sales have surged, its commitment to sell them at cost hasn’t led to a profits boost.

The deal, though, "strengthens its pipeline of drugs, in addition to the array of products its acquiring through the mega Alexion deal."

Alexion is a group within AstraZeneca focused on rare diseases. The pharma giant acquired Alexion for $39bn to enhance its presence in immunology. The deal was the largest announced among pharma players last year.

“Alexion has exercised its option to acquire all remaining equity in Caelum Biosciences” AstraZeneca said in a statement, adding it plans to “advance and accelerate ongoing Phase III clinical development of CAEL-101, a potential first-in-class medicine for AL amyloidosis”

The disease causes significant organ damage and failure that could ultimately be fatal. Approximately 20,000 people across the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK live with AL amyloidosis.

AstraZeneca's stock price was up on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
AstraZeneca's stock price was up on Wednesday morning. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

“With a median survival time of less than 18 months following diagnosis, there is an urgent need for new treatments for this devastating disease,” said Alexion’s CEO Marc Dunoyer .

“CAEL-101 has the potential to be the first therapy to target and remove amyloid deposits from organ tissues, improve organ function, and, ultimately, lead to longer lives for these patients."

New Jersey-based Caelum and Alexion first partnered up in 2019 where Alexion acquired a minority equity interest, plus an exclusive option to acquire the remaining equity.

Alexion will pay Caelum the agreed option exercise price of approximately $150m when the deal closes, which should be on 5 October.

There remains the potential for additional payments of up to $350m "upon achievement of regulatory and commercial milestones."

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