With PAH at its peak, Actelion looks to new disease areas for growth

Actelion, the standard bearer in treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension, is scouting for new disease areas as it rolls out its next potential blockbuster, hoping to keep up its pace of growth by pivoting away from its home base.

Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel

The company, whose latest hypertension treatment, Uptravi, won FDA approval last year, is looking to grow beyond PAH, CEO Jean-Paul Clozel told Reuters. The Swiss biotech built its name on Tracleer, a PAH drug now coming off patent, and seems poised to extend its dominance in PAH treatments with Uptravi. But Actelion recognizes that it needs to branch out to maintain growth, Clozel said.

"In pulmonary arterial hypertension, it will be very difficult to bring new drugs which will not replace another one," the CEO told Reuters. "There is no scientific breakthrough which would tell us there is a way to go for pulmonary hypertension."

That means Actelion will need to scout for acquisitions, Clozel said, and invest Uptravi's mounting proceeds into a pipeline of non-PAH therapies. The company is working through Phase III development with cadazolid, a treatment for Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, and ponesimod, a drug for multiple sclerosis, with plans to submit each for global approvals over the next two years.

On the M&A front, Actelion has repeatedly downplayed concerns that it might need to sign a big deal to secure its future and ward off potential unwanted takeover attention from a larger drugmaker. But the company has been kicking some tires in the market, last year getting outbid by AstraZeneca ($AZN) in an effort to acquire ZS Pharma and its treatment for dangerously high levels of blood potassium.

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