PHARMACEUTICAL: Merck & Co buys Inspire for $430 million

Drug maker Merck & Co has agreed to buy Inspire Pharmaceuticals, which specialises in eye products, for $430 million (£260 million). The boards of both companies have voted in favour of the deal and the Inspire board has recommended shareholders tender their shares. Investment firm Warburg Pincus Private Equity IX, which owns 28 per cent of Inspire, has agreed to tender all of its shares. The key Inspire product is AzaSite (azithromycin), an eye drop product for the treatment of conjunctivitis caused by bacteria. It is based on azithromycin, a widely used antibiotic that prevents bacteria growth by interfering with protein synthesis. AzaSite was granted US marketing approval in 2007, and in 2010 it generated sales of $43 million, representing a 22 per cent increase compared with 2009. Total sales at Inspire were $106 million in 2010, representing a 15 per cent increase.

PHARMACEUTICAL: Takeda sells licence for ceftaroline in Japan… Japanese drug maker Takeda and Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma (DSP) have signed a deal that will give DSP access to antibiotic ceftaroline for the Japan market. DSP pay ¥500 million (£3.4 million) upfront and up to ¥2.5 million in milestone payments depending on how the product progresses. Ceftaroline is a cephem antibiotic discovered by Takeda with activity against gram-positive bacteria including methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

…and buys licence to lurasidone in Europe

Meanwhile, Takeda will receive from DSP access to antipsychotic lurasidone for the Europe market. Takeda will pay ¥10 billion upfront and up to $180 million in milestone payments if the drug is approved in Europe for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The US Food and Drug Administration approved lurasidone for the treatment of schizophrenia in October 2010. The companies have yet to decide whether they have sufficient clinical trial data for the application to the European Medicines Agency.

AGRICHEMICALS: Bayer opens €20m seed lab in Singapore

Bayer has opened a new €20 million (£18 million) seed research laboratory in Singapore where researchers will study canola, corn, cotton, wheat, soybean and rice. They will try to improve resistance to diseases, pests and environmental stress using for example DNA marker analysis and molecular assisted breeding. The lab has the capacity to host over 30 scientists and technicians. In March, Bayer agreed to buy Hornbeck Seed Company (HBK), a privately owned seed business based in DeWiitt in Arkansas, US.

Andrew Turley

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