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Pharmaceuticals

PFIZER TO BUY BIOTECH FIRM

Esperion's focus on 'good cholesterol' called a good fit with Lipitor

by Rick Mullin
January 5, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 1

CHOLESTEROL REMOVAL
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Credit: COURTESY OF ESPERION
Esperion is investigating the use of high-density lipoproteins, center below, as vehicles to absorb cholesterol through tissues in the arterial lining and transport it to the liver for elimination.
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Credit: COURTESY OF ESPERION
Esperion is investigating the use of high-density lipoproteins, center below, as vehicles to absorb cholesterol through tissues in the arterial lining and transport it to the liver for elimination.

Pfizer is moving to boost its leading position in heart disease therapies with the announcement that it will purchase Esperion Therapeutics for $1.3 billion.

Esperion, a biopharmaceutical firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., focuses on developing drugs that marshal the benefits of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, in the treatment of heart disease. Pfizer manufactures Lipitor, the market-leading statin for reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL),or bad cholesterol, as a heart disease therapy.

Industry analysts applaud the deal, saying drug pipeline synergies outweigh the fact that Pfizer will pay $35 per share, a 54% premium over Esperion's average closing share price over the 20 trading days prior to the announcement.

According to an analysis by Credit Suisse First Boston, the acquisition may enable Pfizer to use Esperion's lead drug candidate, ETC-216, as an initial therapy to reduce arterial plaque in certain heart patients, followed by Lipitor/torcetrapib, a Pfizer drug combination in development. Lipitor/torcetrapib, which pairs Lipitor with an agent that inhibits the action of cholesteryl ester transfer protein, is entering Phase III clinical trials.

The acquisition announcement comes on the heels of recent positive Phase II trial results for ETC-216, an apoA1-Milano/phospholipid complex that replicates the function of HDL in clearing plaque associated with coronary heart disease. Esperion expects to bring ETC-216 and another heart disease drug, ETC-588, to market some time in 2007, according to Credit Suisse.

Esperion CEO Roger Newton will continue to lead product development at Esperion, which will operate as a division of Pfizer.

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