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Irish drug-maker Shire has acquired US-based privately held company Meritage Pharma for around $70m.

As part of the deal, Shire will also pay an additional contingent payments based on the achievement of development and regulatory milestones.

Shire noted that it has received rights to acquire Meritage in connection with its purchase of ViroPharma in 2014.

Shire research and development head Philip Vickers said: “Shire’s pipeline and strategic focus on rare diseases is further strengthened with the acquisition of Meritage, which also complements our strong GI capabilities.”

The deal allows Shire to acquire the global rights of Meritage’s Phase III ready compound, Oral Budesonide Suspension (OBS), which is being developed to treat adolescents and adults with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a rare, chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal (GI) disease.

“Shire’s pipeline and strategic focus on rare diseases is further strengthened with the acquisition of Meritage.”

OBS is a viscous oral formulation of budesonide, which is designed to coat the esophagus where the drug can act locally.

Budesonide is the active pharmaceutical ingredient in many FDA approved products, including products to treat asthma, allergic rhinitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Meritage president and CEO Elaine Phillips said: “Meritage has worked closely with gastroenterologists, patients and their caregivers to develop Oral Budesonide Suspension, which was the first medication to significantly reduce eosinophilic inflammation and related symptom endpoints in patients with eosinophilic esophagitis in a Phase II clinical trial.”

In January, Shire signed a merger agreement to acquire US-based NPS Pharmaceuticals for $5.2bn.


Image: Shire location in Lexington Massachusetts. Photo: courtesy of John Phelan.