Nestle gets $145 million stake in food allergy specialist Aimmune

The Nestle logo is pictured on the company headquarters entrance building in Vevey, Switzerland February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - Nestle's NESN.S Health Science unit will invest $145 million in U.S. food allergy specialist Aimmune Therapeutics AIMT.O, the latest move by the Swiss food giant in the health arena, the companies said on Friday.

The investment in new shares will give Nestle a 15 percent stake in Aimmune, and lets the partners work together on developing products to desensitize people with food allergies and protect them from the consequences of accidental exposure.

Aimmune, based in California, is developing treatments for food allergies which are estimated to affect up to 250 million people globally.

Among its products are a treatment for peanut allergy which is undergoing Phase III clinical trials with results expected towards the end of next year. The product is designed to desensitize patients with the allergy.

Nestle’s health science business has been investing in science companies and new facilities this year as the Swiss maker of KitKat chocolate bars looks to support faltering growth in its food business.

The company's surprise appointment in June of former Fresenius FREG.DE chief Ulf Mark Schneider as its new CEO as of January underlined the increasing health focus and was seen a potential trigger for a series of acquisitions.

Analysts said the Aimmune deal made sense given Nestle’s position as the world’s largest packaged food company.

“The anti-allergy food segment is something that Nestle was bound to be interested in given intolerance to certain products in packaged foods can have a serious impact on the health of the consumer,” said Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux.

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields