Issue Date: April 16, 2012
Amgen Will Buy Peptide Firm Kai
Amgen is paying $315 million for Kai Pharmaceuticals, a privately held biotech company developing peptide therapeutics. The deal adds to a string of purchases intended to bolster the big biotech firm’s pipeline and technology portfolio.
The centerpiece of the latest acquisition is KAI-4169, a therapeutic peptide for the treatment of hyperparathyroidism in people undergoing dialysis for chronic kidney disease. An intravenous version of KAI-4169, a calcium-sensing receptor agonist, is poised to enter Phase III trials, and Amgen will give Kai a loan before the deal closes to allow the clinical development to move forward. South San Francisco-based Kai is also developing the drug in a transdermal form, which is in earlier-stage trials.
Amgen has vast experience in the nephrology market. One of its top-selling drugs, Epogen, is used to treat anemia in people with chronic kidney disease.
Epogen sales have fluctuated in the past five years after high doses of the treatment were linked to serious side effects. Furthermore, Epogen is one of several Amgen products expected to encounter competition from biosimilars as early as 2015. Although a path to market for generic versions of biologics is still being worked out in the U.S., competitors are plowing ahead: In January, Hospira launched a Phase III trial of a biosimilar version of Epogen.
With biosimilars advancing, Amgen has been using a variety of strategies to bolster its pipeline and technology portfolio, expand its global presence, and do more with a smaller R&D budget. Earlier this month, for example, Amgen sold AstraZeneca a stake in the development of five clinical-stage monoclonal antibodies. That agreement, under which AstraZeneca paid Amgen $50 million up front and agreed to take on a healthy chunk of the costs to commercialize the drug candidates, allows the companies to share the risks of developing new drugs.
Analysts are reacting positively to Amgen’s recent spate of deals, all mid-sized mergers and acquisitions (M&A) ranging up to $1 billion in value. “We hope that Amgen will get more aggressive on M&A in the years ahead,” Citigroup biotech stock analyst Yaron B. Werber said in a note to investors earlier this year.
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