AstraZeneca to buy rare-disease specialist Caelum in potential $500 million deal

FILE PHOTO: The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Rachel Wisniewski/File Photo

(Reuters) -AstraZeneca will take full control of Caelum Biosciences in a deal worth up to $500 million, the drugmaker said on Wednesday, as it sharpens focus on rare-disease drugs following its purchase of Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

Alexion had taken a minority stake in New Jersey-based Caelum in 2019 before it was acquired by AstraZeneca for $39 billion earlier this year.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker will pay $150 million to buy the remaining stake it does not already own in Caelum and potential milestone-based payments of up to $350 million.

Through the acquisition, AstraZeneca said it would accelerate Caelum’s late-stage trial of its drug candidate to treat AL amyloidosis, a rare, life-threatening disease that damages the heart and kidneys.

The treatment, which aims to improve organ function in affected patients, had in June received a fast-track status from U.S. health regulators.

“With a median survival time of less than 18 months following diagnosis, there is an urgent need for new treatments for this devastating disease,” Alexion CEO Marc Dunoyer said in a statement.

About 20,000 people across the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain live with the disease, AstraZeneca said, citing a study.

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