Rare disease agency Cambridge Bio goes global with $35M buyout by Irish UDG

Zebra Subway Car Cambridge Biomarketing
Cambridge BioMarketing, which drew attention to rare diseases earlier this year with zebra-wrapped subway cars, has been acquired by UDG for $35 million.

A specialist in rare disease drug launches, Cambridge BioMarketing has been snapped up by an Irish healthcare service provider UDG Healthcare in a $35 million deal. Buying the Massachusetts-based communications firm is part of UDG’s overseas expansion plans.

While UDG is relatively unknown in the U.S., the Cambridge acquisition is its second this month—it also bought Vynamic, a healthcare management consulting firm—and its fifth in the U.S. this year. The Cambridge BioMarketing deal includes $30 million upfront, with additional payments of up to $5 million over the next year based on financial targets.

The appeal of Cambridge BioMarketing is its leading status in the specialty disease arena, an area UDG has targeted as a global market opportunity. The orphan drug market is growing at a quick pace, with an annual compound growth rate of more than 11% through 2022, according to Evaluate Pharma. The niche drugs are expected to account for more than 21% of all prescription drug sales by 2022, or about $209 billion.

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In return, Cambridge will gain access to a much bigger global network. "Joining the UDG Healthcare team will allow us to tap into new capabilities such as market access, clinical services, and meetings and events," said Maureen N. Franco, CEO of Cambridge BioMarketing, in an email to FiercePharma.

"UDG also has a substantial global footprint that we can leverage as we continue to extend our work to all corners of the world,” she added.

Last year, Cambridge created its own film called “Rare in Common” to highlight the joint role patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and pharma play in rare disease. The unusual step of producing an in-house movie garnered kudos from clients—and rare disease patients and caregivers, too. This year the agency drew attention to rare diseases by wrapping Boston subway cars in giant zebra stripes.

Rare disease marketing and orphan drug launches are unique in pharma marketing, not only in the nature of the diseases, which by definition means small patient populations and a general lack of public awareness. Marketing in that field involves smaller, mostly digital budgets, but patient communities are typically passionate about new treatments.