Hungry AstraZeneca teams with Ironwood on $150M China drug deal

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals ($IRWD) pocketed $25 million and gained promises of up to $125 million more from AstraZeneca ($AZN) as they teamed up to push linaclotide through a late-stage study in China and on into that country's fast-growing drug market. The deal pairs the company on the research work that needs to be done in China to win an approval for irritable bowel syndrome, with the biotech company relentlessly hanging on to a 50% share of the profits in China.

The deal makes a lot of sense for each company. AstraZeneca R&D chief Martin Mackay has been wheeling and dealing in recent months, looking for late-stage products and emerging-market deals that can swiftly generate some badly needed revenue at the pharma giant. And Ironwood, which slogged through the long process required to gain an FDA approval for linaclotide, retains a considerable amount of the revenue that can be generated in China, in keeping with CEO Peter Hecht's plans to build a full-scale biopharma operation with both R&D and marketing arms.

"China is one of the fastest growing prescription medicines markets in the world and linaclotide represents a valuable opportunity to meet the needs of local patients by providing an innovative new treatment option," said Mark Mallon, regional VP for Asia Pacific and president, AstraZeneca China. "We are pleased to be partnering with Ironwood for linaclotide in China, which capitalizes on our leadership in the gastrointestinal sector in the emerging markets."

The two partners also wrapped a separate sales pact in the new collaboration, with Ironwood committing its 160 sales reps in the U.S. campaign for Nexium. They're already meeting with gastroenterologists and primary care docs on linaclotide. This new pact gives them another product to promote.

- here's the press release

Special Reports: Ironwood Pharmaceuticals - 2009 Fierce 15 | AstraZeneca - The Biggest R&D Spenders In Biopharma

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