Shire diversifies with acquisition of Sweden's Premacure AB

Shire P.L.C. has grown from about 100 local workers to around 1,100 since it moved to Wayne in 2004. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Drugmaker Shire, Plc., said Tuesday it acquired privately-held Premacure AB, a Swedish company developing a treatment for a rare eye disease primarily found in infants.

Neonatology would be a new therapeutic area for Shire, which is headquartered in Ireland but operates as much from Wayne in Chester County. (The company is planning a U.S. headquarters move to Malvern.)

Premacure is based in Uppsala, Sweden, and is developing a protein replacement therapy to prevent "retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)." The rare disorder can cause blindness in premature infants. The drug is in phase II trials.

Shire said in its statement that approximately 87,000 and 54,000 premature infants are born annually in the United States and Europe, respectively. Of the 87,000 preterm infants, about 14,000–16,000 are affected by some degree of ROP. The company estimates 1,100 to 1,500 of these infants require medical treatment, and 400–600 infants become legally blind.

Shire did not reveal the price it paid, but said there was an initial payment and "certain contingent payments based on the achievement of pre-specified development and commercial milestones."

“ROP is a devastating eye disorder that can severely impact preterm infants for the rest of their lives,” Flemming Ornskov, who is set to become Shire's new chief executive officer, said in a statement. Angus Russell is retiring. “This investigational protein has the potential to provide a first-in-class treatment that may minimize the development and impact of complications arising from ROP. We will build on the work that Premacure has done and will apply Shire’s proven ability in developing protein replacement therapies for rare disorders to bring this much needed therapy to the market.”

Jan Borg was the founding CEO of Premacure.

"The acquisition of Premacure by Shire further underscores the potential to change the long-term outlook for preterm infants with ROP and their families," Borg said in a statement. "We are excited that this program will become part of the innovative pipeline at Shire and believe that their experience and resources may accelerate the development of a product that seeks to prevent some of the devastating long-term consequences of ROP."