Shire plc (LSE: SHP, NASDAQ: SHPG) has announced the acquisition of Foresight Biotechnologies Inc., based in New York for $300 million in an all-cash deal. According to the companies, the transaction provides Shire with the exclusive global rights to a topical ophthalmic solution, “FST-100”, developed for the treatment of late-stage infectious conjunctivitis and a potential alternative to antibiotic use. The acquisition provides a natural progression for Shire which has been working to build a substantial ophthalmic franchise over recent years. In July 2005, the company partnered with the US Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) on a new initiative to accelerate the development of therapies that could treat autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP). At the same time, the company is understood to be actively pursuing a New Drug Application (NDA) for a dry eye treatment “Lifitegrast”, following a US-based double-blind placebo controlled phase III study which reported no ocular or treatment-related serious adverse events for the small molecule antagonist.
According to Shire, there are currently no therapeutics available to resolve the clinical signs and symptoms of adenovirus infection, understood to be one of the most common causes of viral conjunctivitis. Approximately half of all infectious conjunctivitis cases appear to be viral in origin while up to 90% of such cases may be caused by the extremely infectious adenovirus. Commercial estimates suggest that there may be almost 6 million cases of infectious conjunctivitis annually in the United States and approximately 5.4 million cases in the EU.
Commenting on the announcement of the acquisition, Edward Holland, M.D., Director, Cornea Services at the Cincinnati Eye Institute and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati stated, “as a researcher and clinician, I know first-hand the significant unmet patient need for an effective treatment for infectious conjunctivitis as well as the challenges associated with treating this condition, so I’m excited about the potential of FST-100. I’m also pleased to know that Shire, with its research and commercial expertise, will further develop FST-100 with the goal of bringing it to market as a treatment option for this significant clinical problem.” In additional commentary on the transaction, Michael Weiser, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Foresight Biotherapeutics, added that: “We’re excited about the potential benefits of FST-100 for patients and the physicians who care for them. In our discussions with experts in the field, we’ve heard their enthusiasm for the possibility of a treatment that could reduce inflammation while killing virus and bacteria without the risk of unnecessary antibiotic use. We’re pleased that Shire has committed to moving this program forward in development, so FST-100 might become an important treatment option for patients with either viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.”