With help from Charles River, AstraZeneca expands its respiratory pipeline

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is moving forward with a respiratory candidate developed alongside Charles River Laboratories' ($CRL) discovery business, a milestone the CRO says affirms its investments in the space.

The drug, an oral respiratory treatment, is the product of a 2012 collaboration between AstraZeneca and BioFocus, a drug discovery organization Charles River acquired earlier this year. The two evaluated a slew of potential treatments before promoting this one into preclinical development, according to Charles River, and the joint team won praise from AstraZeneca for overcoming a significant safety issue on the way there.

In March, Charles River paid drug developer Galapagos $179 million in exchange for BioFocus and Argenta, its sister organization, bringing in two CROs that specialize in medicinal chemistry, target discovery and complex in vitro biology. The move was designed to expand Charles River's expertise in early-stage services, augmenting its capabilities in preclinical testing with integrated drug discovery know-how.

And the latest news from its AstraZeneca partnership proves it was a wise bet, said David Smith, Charles River's vice president of early discovery.

"We are extremely pleased AstraZeneca chose to partner with Charles River for its early drug-discovery work," Smith said in a statement. "The recognition this project received from the AstraZeneca Innovative Medicines team is a testament to our collaborative approach to partner programs."

Argenta and BioFocus brought in $87 million in sales in 2013, and Charles River figures its new acquisitions will grow another 10% in 2014, adding about 6% to its projected annual sales of $1.3 billion.

Last quarter, the CRO grew revenue by nearly 17% to $341.2 million. Charles River's Research Models and Services business jumped 2.6% to $133.1 million, while its Discovery and Safety Assessment unit leapt 32.7% to $142.6 million, and its smaller manufacturing operation jumped 17.5% to $65.4 million.

- read the statement