Allergan said today it has acquired global rights to AstraZeneca’s mid-stage inflammatory disorder candidate MEDI2070 through a licensing deal that could generate up to $1.52 billion-plus for AstraZeneca.

The agreement adds to Allergan’s portfolio of inflammatory disorder treatments, while continuing AstraZeneca’s sell-off of drugs and drug candidates outside of its core areas.

Through an agreement with AstraZeneca’s global biologics research and development arm MedImmune, Allergan said it licensed MEDI2070, an anti-interleukin-23 (anti-IL-23) monoclonal antibody. MEDI2070 is in Phase IIb studies in moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease and Phase II-ready for ulcerative colitis and other related conditions.

MedImmune will continue an ongoing MEDI2070 Phase IIa study in Crohn's disease to completion and has agreed to hand off the Phase IIb study in Crohn's disease to Allergan for completion, according to Allergan.

Because MEDI2070 targets IL-23 alone, Allergan and AstraZeneca reason, the candidate may prove more effective than therapies that target IL-12 and IL-23.

“MEDI2070 represents an exciting addition to our Open Science pipeline, adding an important new program currently being studied in Crohn's disease, with potential across a number of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders,” said David Nicholson, Chief R&D Officer, Allergan

Allergan agreed to pay AstraZeneca $250 million upfront for an exclusive, worldwide license to develop and commercialize MEDI2070, as well as pay up to $1.27 billion over 15 years in payments that include milestone payments of up to $435 million and sales-based milestone payments of $725 million, plus tiered royalties on product sales.

For AstraZeneca, inflammation is within a core focus area that includes respiratory and autoimmune disease. The company’s other core areas include cardio and metabolic diseases, oncology, and infection and neuroscience.

However, in releasing first-quarter results on April 29, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the company would “accelerate the partnering” in inflammatory diseases outside of respiratory conditions, as well as in infection and neuroscience disorders. “The growth of our pipeline is such that we have to further prioritize and further sharpen our focus, and we have to allocate additional investments to oncology.”

The company has also reached numerous agreements this year to sell rights to noncore assets. Until the Allergan agreement, the most recent such deal had been the licensing of skin disease candidates tralokinumab and brodalumab to Leo Pharma in July.

Allergan has been on a buying spree since the end of Pfizer’s planned acquisition of the company for $160 billion in April.

Since then, Allergan agreed to buy eye care drug developer ForSight VISION5 for $95 million-plus; bought eye care gene therapy developer RetroSense Therapeutics for $60 million-plus; disclosed plans to acquire Tobira Therapeutics, a developer of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) treatments for up to $1.695 billion; and snapped up another NASH drug developer, Akarna Therapeutics, for $50 million upfront.

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