ZURICH, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche said on Friday it had agreed to buy privately-held Trophos to gain access to an experimental drug to treat a debilitating genetic neuromuscular disease.
The acquisition is the latest in a spate of deals by Roche as it uses its cash pile to expand its portfolio of medicines and invests in genomic data and tools to help in drug discovery and development.
So far this week Roche has paid $1 billion for a stake in Foundation Medicine, signed a licensing deal for an antibiotic boosting drug for up to $750 million and partnered with Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter.
Under the terms of the agreement with Trophos, the French firm’s shareholders will receive an upfront payment of 120 million euros ($140 million), plus further payments based on certain predetermined milestones worth up to 350 million euros.
The deal brings the Swiss drugmaker Trophos’ investigational medicine olesoxime, which is being developed as a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
SMA is a highly disabling genetic disease characterised by progressive muscle weakness and loss of motor functions, which affects one in 6,000 to one in 10,000 children.
Olesoxime, which has been granted orphan drug status by regulators in the United States and Europe, works by protecting the health of motor nerve cells. Orphan drug designation is awarded to drugs intended to treat rare conditions that have limited treatment options.
Results of a Phase II study presented last year found the drug showed a beneficial effect on the maintenance of neuromuscular function and also helped reduce medical complications associated with the disease.
Roche has made a series of investments in treatments for genetic muscle-weakening diseases.
In 2011, it signed a licensing deal for experimental drugs from PTC therapeutics and last year struck an alliance with Canadian venture capital firm AmorChem to discover therapies for myotonic muscular dystrophy 1, or Steinert’s disease. ($1 = 0.8599 euros) (Reporting by Joshua Franklin. Editing by Jane Merriman)