Shire bets on PhII protein-delivery therapy to fight infant blindness

In a move that allows it to enter a new rare-disease market space, Shire ($SHPG) snatched up Swedish company Premacure AB and its Phase II protein replacement therapy designed to combat a disease that causes blindness in premature infants.

Retinopathy of prematurity affects infants who are born earlier than 31 weeks into pregnancy and weigh less than two pounds. Though rare, the disorder is one of the most common causes of childhood blindness. The early separation from the mother's circulation results in the loss of proteins such as insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, which is thought to lead to the disorder.

To replace the loss, Premacure's intravenous protein replacement combines a form of IGF-1 with an artificially synthesized version of the binding protein, IGFBP3, Shire spokesperson Jessica Cotrone told FierceDrugDelivery. The binding apparatus, which circulates in blood plasma and activates the growth factor, allows the safe and effective delivery of IGF-1 to the infant in utero to prevent the development of retinopathy. Synthesized naturally in healthy infants' livers, a shortage of IGF-1 can severely affect a child's growth, as well as its eyesight.

Flemming Ornskov

The acquisition by Shire represents the company's initial foray into neonatology, according to a company release. Neither company disclosed the amount of the deal.

"(Retinopathy of prematurity) is a devastating eye disorder that can severely impact preterm infants for the rest of their lives," said Shire CEO designate Flemming Ornskov in a statement. "We will build on the work that Premacure has done and will apply Shire's proven ability in developing protein replacement therapies for rare disorders to bring this much needed therapy to the market."

- here's the release