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UCB snaps up arthritis drug and Celltech in one

Published on 20/05/04 at 07:23pm

Brussels-based UCB is to buy the UK's number one biotech company Celltech for around $1.5 billion, creating the world's fifth largest biopharmaceutical company behind Amgen, Novo Nordisk, Schering and Genentech.

The deal emerged out of negotiations between the two companies to market Celltech's promising arthritis drug CDP870, a separate deal which, curiously, will remain despite the takeover news.

The companies say the combined group will have strong presence in a number of key therapeutic areas such as central nervous system, inflammation and oncology, stronger R&D and greater commercial presence in global markets.

Commenting on UCB's offer to Celltech shareholders, Roch Doliveux, chief executive of UCB said: "The new combined entity has all that it takes to rapidly be positioned as a global leader in neurology, especially with Keppra and its successors, in inflammation with CDP870, and in allergy with Xyzal and Zyrtec, with a strong research engine focused on validated targets to fuel our long term growth."

The tie-up was welcomed by many analysts, although some expressed doubts whether mid-sized UCB could capitalise on the blockbuster potential of CDP870 in the same way a larger company might.

The rights to Celltech's flagship drug became available last year when Pfizer exited a co-marketing deal agreed by Pharmacia before it was acquired by the US giant. Pfizer believed the arthritis drug would face stiffer competition than anticipated by the time it is expected to reach market in 2007, and sought to renegotiate the profit-sharing agreement in its favour.

UCB's research will be run from Celltech's base in Slough, with Goran Ando taking up the position of deputy head of the new company under Mr Doliveux.


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