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Amgen boosts pipeline with spending spree

Published on 07/06/07 at 11:15am

Amgen has spent $720 million acquiring two US biotech companies in deals that add potential treatments for diabetes and kidney disease to its pipeline.

The two transactions were announced over just three days, and once complete, will see Ilypsa, a fellow Californian company, and Massachusetts-based Alantos become subsidiaries of Amgen.

With a price tag of $300 million, Alantos is the junior of the two deals, but it brings to Amgen ALS 2-0426, a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor.

Studies suggest ALS 2-0426 is potent, highly selective and can be administered once per day, and in May, it entered phase IIa trials in collaboration with Servier, Alantos' development partner. Servier also holds commercialisation rights to the compound outside the US.

The DPP-4 drug class presents the next generation of diabetes drugs and it is expected to be a lucrative one for pharma, with the potential to be as effective as existing treatments at lowering blood sugar levels, but with fewer side-effects, such as weight gain.

Merck Sharp & Dohme's Januvia (sitagliptin) became the first in the class on the market when it was launched in Europe earlier this year and it is predicted to reach peak year sales of $1.5 billion.

MSD is one of a number of companies developing DPP-4 drugs. Hot on Januvia's heels is Novartis' Galvus (vildagliptin), which is currently being assessed by regulators in the US and Europe, and AstraZeneca/Bristol-Myers-Squibb's saxagliptin and Takeda's SYR-322 (alogliptin), which are both in phase III trials. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline was forced to cancel development of its own DPP-4 inhibitor Redona (denagliptin), also in phase III, late last year because of toxicity problems.

Amgen doesn't yet have a presence in the diabetes market but it does have two phase I candidates for type II diabetes in its own pipeline  AMG 221 and AMG 837.

The deal with Alantos also brings access to its Matrix Metalloproteinases Platform, which Amgen hopes will yield a novel, disease-modifying treatment for osteoarthritis.

Meanwhile, the $420 million acquisition of Ilypsa brings to Amgen's pipeline the late-stage candidate ILY101. The novel phosphate binder treats hyperphospatemia, an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally elevated level of inorganic phosphate in the blood.

The condition is often caused by renal failure and almost all patients experience it at some point during the course of their disease.

Executive VP of global commercial operations George Morrow said: "Amgen is dedicated to developing medicines that improve the lives of patients around the world.

"Ilypsa and ILY101 are a strategic fit for Amgen's nephrology portfolio and further demonstrate our commitment to explore, develop and commercialise promising therapies that help in the fight against kidney disease and its complications."

The Ilypsa and Alantos acquisitions are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2007.


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