AstraZeneca buys pharma company for $323 million

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 AstraZeneca  announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Omthera Pharmaceuticals, a company based in Princeton, N.J. The company is focused on the development of new therapies for abnormal levels of lipids in the blood.

AstraZeneca is working to bolster its drug development pipeline as blockbuster drugs go off patent. The company announced plans to cut employment at its Delaware headquarters site by 1,250 in a restructuring move.

Omthera’s investigational product, Epanova , could potentially treat patients with very high triglycerides. In studies to date, it has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels and improve other key lipid levels. The drug will offer two and four gram once-a-day doses with or without meals.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will acquire Omthera for $12.70 per share, or approximately $323 million. This represents a premium of 88% on Omthera’s closing price on Friday 24 May 2013. In addition to the cash payment, each Omthera shareholder will receive rights of up to approximately $4.70 per share or $120 million in total, if specified milestones related to Epanova are achieved, or if a milestone related to sales is achieved.

Omthera has completed pharmacokinetic and Phase III clinical studies to investigate the safety and efficacy profile of Epanova, a coated soft gelatin capsule containing a complex mixture of polyunsaturated free fatty acids derived from fish oils.

Fish oil has long been used in products sold by mail order and nutrition stores as a way to reduce cholesterol levels.

Omthera is expected to file a new drug application in the US for Epanova in mid-2013 for patients with high triglyceride levels with regulatory filings in other markets to follow. AstraZeneca intends to pursue a large-scale cardiovascular outcomes trial for Epanova in combination with statins that would include its Crestor drug.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca said: “The number of people with elevated triglyceride levels is rising rapidly across the world, due in part to the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes. There is a clear need for effective and convenient alternatives to some of the existing treatments. Epanova offers real potential both as a distinctive monotherapy for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia and in combination with Crestor for patients at high risk of adverse cardiovascular events. This is an exciting acquisition that clearly complements our existing portfolio in cardiovascular and metabolic disease, one of our core therapy areas.”

Omthera has 14 employees.

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