Abbott deals beef up late-stage platform of blockbuster contenders

Abbott Labs ($ABT) doesn't do a lot of deals compared with some of its Big Pharma rivals. But when the company inks a deal, it isn't afraid of using some big numbers. Abbott pledged $450 million just for the upfront and near-term milestones for the ex-U.S. rights to bardoxolone, a late-stage drug advanced by Reata Pharmaceuticals--a 2011 Fierce 15 winner--for chronic kidney disease. It paid the same amount for Facet Biotech, nabbing a big stake in the MS drug daclizumab, which just delivered positive Phase IIb data. Both have the kind of blockbuster potential that Abbott will need to replace the multibillion-dollar revenue it gains from Humira.

In an interview with Dow Jones, John Leonard, Abbott's senior vice president of pharmaceuticals research and development, says that the company has been carefully beefing up its mid- and late-stage pipeline. In 2009 Abbott counted 8 such programs. Today it's 20. Three years ago it had nothing in Phase III, now it's looking forward to crucial data on chronic kidney disease, MS and liver cancer.

"We've had a very aggressive in-licensing effort," Leonard tells Dow Jones scribe Peter Loftus.

The deal-making strategy follows a more carefully tailored set of R&D objectives. Early-stage, internal work on HIV and respiratory diseases is out, though later-stage R&D efforts are still underway. The spotlight is on oncology, immunology and neuroscience, highlighting an internal program for the cancer drug linifanib.

- here's the story from Dow Jones