Pfizer continues spending spree with $295M upfront for PhIII growth hormone

Pfizer's business development team is on a spending spree. Today the pharma giant ($PFE) said it is partnering with Miami-based Opko Health ($OPK) on a Phase III long acting growth hormone, paying $295 million upfront and promising up to $275 million more on regulatory milestones.

The deal comes just weeks after Pfizer made an $850 million upfront payment to partner with Merck KGaA on a preclinical immuno-oncology program, marking the highest upfront ever paid in an industry licensing deal. A few days ago Pfizer also inked a $280 million gene therapy pact with Spark Therapeutics. Stymied by AstraZeneca ($AZN) in its frustrated attempt earlier this year to complete a megamerger, the Big Pharma company is clearly prepared to pay big to fatten up a lean pipeline. This latest premium harkens back to 2008, when Pfizer paid a $225 million upfront for rights to Dimebon, a drug that failed decisively for Alzheimer's.

In this new pact, the pharma giant is gaining worldwide rights to long-acting hGH-CTP, a growth hormone that promises to replace the once-daily injections currently needed for a once-weekly jab. The biotech will fund and stay in charge of clinical development for adult and pediatric growth hormone deficiency as well as for children who were born small and failed to catch up to the norm in their first two years. Pfizer will be responsible for all other indications in the clinic.

Opko picked up the program from its $480 million all-stock buyout of Israel's Prolor in 2013. The biotech's stock spiked 15% this morning as news of the pact spread. Opko has a market cap of $3.55 billion.

Pfizer's Geno Germano

"This agreement strengthens Pfizer's commitment to rare diseases, and we are pleased to work with OPKO to help provide a potential next-generation therapy for patients with Adult and Pediatric Growth Hormone Deficiency," said Geno Germano, group president of Pfizer's Global Innovative Pharma. "Long-acting growth hormone is the first innovation in the GHD space in 20 years. hGH-CTP would be complementary to our existing Genotropin franchise, and could potentially provide an option that could improve patients' adherence to treatment with once weekly dosing."

Coincidentally, Denmark's Ascendis Pharma A/S announced positive six-month interim results today from an ongoing Phase II pediatric study of its once-weekly TransCon Growth Hormone in children with growth hormone deficiency.  

- here's the release

Special Report: Show me the money: Which drugs made the top 10 list on upfront deals?

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