British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca plans to sell its thyroid cancer drug Caprelsa to Cambridge, Mass.-based Genzyme in a deal valued at $300 million. It's part of the company's strategy to move away from rare disease offerings and focus on key treatments.
The deal calls for Genzyme, a unit of French drugmaker Sanofi, to pay AstraZeneca $165 million upfront to acquire the global rights to develop and market Caprelsa, with an additional $135 million in milestone payments expected. In a news release, AstraZeneca stated the transaction is expected to be completed within the second half of 2015.
“Caprelsa is a rare disease therapy and the divestment to Genzyme, an expert leader in endocrinology, demonstrates our commitment to ensure patients continue to have access to this medicine while we sharpen our focus on key disease areas,” said Luke Miels, executive vice president for AstraZeneca in a statement.
Caprelsa was designated an orphan drug by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005. In 2011, the drug was approved for the treatment of late-stage medullary thyroid cancer in adults, a rare form of the disease that affects about 3% of the more than 600,000 people estimated to be living with thyroid cancer in the United States.
The treatment is part of a class of drugs known as protein kinase inhibitors, which block proteins that help grow medullary cancer cells. Caprelsa is currently available in 28 countries, with global sales reaching $48 million in 2014.
The purchase of Caprelsa was hailed by Genzyme CEO Dr. David Meeker. The company specializes in developing treatments for rare diseases.
“The addition of Caprelsa represents a strong strategic fit for our rare endocrinology portfolio and underscores Genzyme's commitment to addressing unmet needs in the thyroid community,” Meeker said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing our rare disease expertise to appropriate patients with advanced stage thyroid carcinoma.”