Roche Acquiring InterMune for $8.3 Billion

August 29, 2014

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche has said it will acquire California-based biotechnology firm InterMune for $8.3 billion, in a deal that allows Roche to strengthen its respiratory therapy portfolio.

Roche gains access to InterMune's lead drug Esbriet (pirfenidone), which treats idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare but fatal disease characterized by progressive loss of lung function. The drug won European approval in 2011 and Canadian approval in 2012, and currently is under regulatory review in the U.S., where it received breakthrough therapy designation in July. Roche said it expects a U.S. launch this year.

Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche Group, said the acquisition will complement Roche’s strengths in pulmonary therapies. The company’s existing portfolio includes the cystic fibrosis treatment Pulmozyme (dornase alfa) and asthma drug Xolair (omalizumab). Roche has other experimental therapies targeting respiratory diseases in clinical development, the company said.

Dan Welch, chairman, CEO and president of InterMune, said Roche’s global resources and scale will accelerate the ability to deliver pirfenidone to more patients around the world.

Esbriet generated $35.7 million dollars in sales in the second quarter of 2014, but analysts expect it eventually will generate more than $1 billion in global sales.

This is not the first time the two companies have collaborated. In 2010, Roche purchased full development rights of InterMune’s hepatitis C drug danoprevir, a deal that Roche said would allow it to more easily develop combination therapies for this disease.

During an investors call Monday, Schwan said Roche continues to survey the market, and remains open to more acquisitions.

“Within the last five years, we didn’t do an acquisition of that size,” he said, noting this wasn’t due to a lack of financial resources. Roche seized the opportunity with InterMune because it was an opportunity to generate value for the shareholders, Schwan added.

The deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, comes amid a flurry of pharmaceutical industry merger activity. In July, AbbVie paid $54 billion to acquire Shire. That deal followed Mylan’s agreement to buy much of Abbott’s generic drug business for $5.3 billion and Pfizer’s unsuccessful $118 billion bid to acquire AstraZeneca. — Jonathon Shacat

Originally appeared in Drug Industry Daily, the pharmaceutical industry’s number one source for regulatory news and information. Click here for more information.