Nektar Therapeutics is planning to buy fellow drug delivery specialist Aerogen for $32 million (€26m), boosting its position in respiratory technologies.
Nektar is already a leader in drug delivery, with several approved products using its pegylation technology - used to improve the half-life of injectable drugs. It also has a strong portfolio of inhaleable drugs, most notably its inhaled insulin product Exubera for diabetes, partered with Pfizer, which has been filed for approval in both the US and Europe.
The addition of Aerogen will shore up Nektar's inhaled delivery portfolio, adding in liquid delivery technologies to complement Nektar's powdered drug capabilities.
Aerogen's lead liquid drug delivery platform is the OnQ Aerosol Generator, an electonic micropump that produces a fine liquid mist of precisely defined particle sizes which, according to the company, can be tailored for respiratory therapy or absorption into the blood via the lungs for systemic delivery. It is capable of delivering a broad range of drugs in solution or suspension, including proteins and peptides.
OnQ (pictured) is comprised of a unique dome-shaped aperture plate containing over 1,000 precision-formed tapered holes, surrounded by a vibrational element. When energy is applied, the aperture plate vibrates over 100,000 times per second. This rapid vibration causes each aperture to act as a micropump, drawing liquid through the holes to form consistently sized droplets. The result is a low-velocity liquid aerosol.
Aerogen claims OnQ is unique because its fine control over allows it to deliver tiny (1-3 micron) particles that can reach the deep lung and get drugs into the bloodstream, or slight larger particles (3-5 microns) for local, pulmonary treatments. It uses no propellants or pressure, and can often aerosolise existing liquid formulations of drugs, so no changes in formulation and stability testing are required.
"The addition of Aerogen's technology, people, products, programs, and intellectual property with a patent portfolio of more than 35 patents will extend the range of inhaleable proprietary opportunities for Nektar," said Ajit Gill, Nektar's president and chief executive.
The deal, announced yesterday, sparked a doubling of Aerogen's share price to 67 cents, while Nektar was also lifted to $17.62. Nektar said it would pay $8 million in cash and about $24 million in stock for Aerogen, while retaining the option of paying the full buyout price in cash. In 2004, Aerogen reported revenue of $6.2 million, mainly from sales of its Aeroneb range of nebulisers, and net loss of $10.1 million. Nektar's sales were $114 million in the same period.