Sun Pharma buys Ocular, adding late-stage dry-eye candidate to take on Allergan blockbuster

Sun Pharma

India's Sun Pharma is stumping up $40 million plus undisclosed milestones to buy Ocular Technologies from Auven Therapeutics, adding to its growing eyecare medicines pipeline.

The focus of the deal is Seciera, a new formulation of cyclosporine currently in Phase III testing as a treatment for dry eye disease, an inflammatory condition thought to affect around 16 million people in the U.S. alone.  

Ocular's 700-patient Phase III trial is due to complete in January next year and if positive, could put Seciera on course for a launch in 2018. It adds to a pair of eyecare products bought by Sun Pharma as part of its $48 million takeover of InSite Vision last year--ophthalmic steroids BromSite and DexaSite--as well as Sun's in-house developed Xelpros for glaucoma.

"This initiative will enable Sun Pharma to significantly expand its ophthalmic presence and reach millions of patients globally," commented Dilip Shanghvi, the company's managing director in a statement.

If approved, Seciera will contend against Allergan's ($AGN) Restasis--also based on cyclosporine--which turned over $1.3 billion in sales last year, making it the Dublin-based biopharma company's second-biggest product after wrinkle treatment Botox.

Restasis is already facing competition from Shire's recently-launched Xiidra (lifitegrast). Some market observers have predicted that having a second product on the market could actually raise awareness of dry eye and benefit Allergan's drug, but Allergan is leaving nothing to chance, adding to its sales rep headcount to keep momentum behind its drug.

Peter Corr, co-founder and managing general partner of Auven, claims Seciera is a best-in-class candidate that offers "earlier onset of positive effects and lack of application discomfort over currently available therapies."

Sun reckons that the global dry-eye disease market could be worth up to $5 billion by 2020. Last year the company announced plans to tap into that potential by setting up a dedicated U.S. eyecare division. 

The company has already picked up an FDA approval for BromSite, which came through in April, although Xelpros was rejected by the agency last year because of manufacturing compliance concerns. 

Related articles:

Allergan expands Restasis sales force to fight off Shire's new dry eye threat
Shire targets Allergan's dry-eye market share by pricing Xiidra at $5K per year--right on par with Restasis
India's Sun Pharma makes $48M purchase of eyecare firm InSite Vision
India's Sun Pharma research arm sees FDA nod for Elepsia XR yanked by FDA on manufacturing