AstraZeneca enhances long-term oncology growth strategy with Acerta investment

Transaction includes late-stage, potential best-in-class irreversible small molecule BTK inhibitor, acalabrutinib

AstraZeneca has entered into an agreement to invest in a majority equity stake in Acerta Pharma, a privately owned biopharmaceutical company based in the Netherlands and the US.

The transaction provides AstraZeneca with a potential best-in-class irreversible oral Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, acalabrutinib (ACP-196), currently in Phase III development for B-cell blood cancers and in Phase I/II clinical trials in multiple solid tumours.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca, said: ‘The investment is consistent with our focus on long-term growth and reflects the role targeted business development plays in our business model. 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.’

‘Acalabrutinib provides us with a small molecule presence in blood cancers to complement our existing immunotherapy approach, in collaboration with Celgene in haematological malignancies. Furthermore, we look forward to working closely with the Acerta team and benefiting from the considerable clinical expertise they bring in this complex area of medicine.’

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will acquire 55% of the entire issued share capital of Acerta for an upfront payment of US$2.5bn. A further unconditional payment of $1.5bn will be paid either on receipt of the first regulatory approval for acalabrutinib for any indication in the US, or the end of 2018, depending on which is first. The agreement also includes options that, if exercised, provide the opportunity for Acerta shareholders to sell, and AstraZeneca to buy, the remaining 45% of shares in Acerta.

The options can be exercised at various points in time, conditional on the first approval of acalabrutinib in both the US and Europe and when the extent of the commercial opportunity has been fully established, at a price of approximately $3bn net of certain costs and payments incurred by AstraZeneca and net of agreed future adjusting items, using a pre-agreed pricing mechanism.

An extensive development programme is under way for acalabrutinib with the opportunity for initial regulatory submissions in the second half of 2016 for the treatment of patients with specific types of haematological malignancies. Expanding further into B-cell cancers, acalabrutinib is estimated to reach potential peak-year sales in excess of $5bn globally. AstraZeneca will also benefit from the substantial expertise in haematological cancers offered by Acerta’s approximately 150 employees.

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