Meda to scoop up Sequoia-backed pharma startup Acton for $135M

Swedish drugmaker Meda AB has agreed to snap up asthma drug developer Acton Pharmaceuticals in a buyout deal worth at least $135 million. The acquisition would give Meda rights to Acton's FDA-approved Aerospan treatment for asthma.

Meda, which specializes in respiratory products, plans to close on the purchase of Acton in the first quarter.

The buyout provides a relatively rapid payoff for Marlborough, MA-based Acton's leading venture investor, Sequoia Capital, which provided the bulk of financing to support Acton's deal to license Aerospan from Forest Laboratories ($FRX) in 2009. Acton gained FDA approval for the product, an inhaled asthma treatment containing the corticosteroid flunisolide, in September 2012.

Meda aims to mount sales of the product in the competitive multibillion-dollar market for asthma meds within months, saying that the market launch of the product is expected in early 2014, and the company aims to hit at least $300 million (2 billion SEK) in annual sales by 2018. On top of the $135 million initial payment for Acton, Meda has agreed to a milestone payment of $10 million and royalty-based milestones to Acton shareholders. 

"The acquisition of Acton is a unique opportunity to gain access to a newly registered product in the U.S. market. Aerospan is within Meda's primary focus area--respiratory--and is based on a new technology," Anders Lönner, Meda's CEO, said in a statement. "Paired with Dymista, this gives us a clear profile in our highest priority area as well as important marketing synergies. Aerospan will be launched in the US market in the beginning of next year and other major markets will follow."

Acton also controls U.S. rights to develop Nasacort HFA from Sanofi, stemming from a 2011 deal with the U.S. division of the French drug giant ($SNY). Acton says on its website that it plans to launch the allergy medicine after FDA approval and resolving of manufacturing issues.

- here is Meda's release