Shire eyes up ophthalmology expansion with Foresight buy

Shire’s $300m play for private company Foresight Biotherapeutics might not be the billion-dollar deal many investors are expecting it to eventually strike, but it does make perfect strategic sense.

The next big event on the horizon for Shire is the October 25 PDUFA date for its dry-eye treatment lifitegrast. By buying Foresight the Irish-domiciled group will be gaining, in infective conjunctivitis treatment FST-100, another ophthalmology product to potentially push through its growing eye care pipeline.

While Actelion rumours appear to have faded for now, the $300m that Shire will be paying for Foresight could be a good gamble (Shire needs to acquire, and Actelion fits the bill, June 8, 2015). FST-100 has completed trials for infectious conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and unlike existing pink eye treatments Foresight is banking on the corticosteroid proving to be effective in both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis.


Around half of all cases of conjunctivitis are the viral form, which currently has no approved treatment. Bacterial cases are usually treated with antibiotics, but as it can be hard to differentiate between the two, patients are often unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.

Shire is hoping that by offering an effective treatment for both versions of the infection it could tap into a market that sees almost six million cases of infectious conjunctivitis annually in the US alone.

However, phase II data on FST-100 to date has been mixed. In one of two trials, the drug only showed a trend towards significance due to the low number of patients who tested positive for the viral version of the disorder, rendering the results meaningless. In another three-arm trial the drug showed significance in improving rates of clinical cure and viral eradication against placebo, but failed to hit that endpoint when compared against povidone-iodine.

Shire will now be taking on the phase III trials, which will encompass both bacterial and viral conjunctivitis. With it at the helm, things might run a little smoother.


Adding Foresight, at what looks like a reasonable price for a late-stage asset, also plays into Shire’s stated aim of beefing up the ophthalmic business unit it created in 2014 and has been busy adding to it with acquisitions that have included Premacure and SARcode Bioscience.

It might also take some of the focus off lifitegrast, a product that many are expecting to provide the first serious competition to Allergan’s dry-eye drug Restasis, which last year had sales of $1.08bn (Dry eye development reaches the Eleventh hour, May 19, 2015).

Analysts are expecting lifitegrast to take market share due its seeming superior efficacy.  The Shire drug takes up to four weeks to work, compared with Restasis’s three months. It also appears to work in more patients, with the advantage of relieving the signs and symptoms of dry eye as opposed to Restasis’s improvements in eye wetting. According to EvaluatePharma consensus sales in 2020 will be $632m.

But to make the drug a success Shire will have to step up its sales and marketing efforts for its fledgling ophthalmic division. Bulking up the business with products like FST-100 will help to occupy the sales force it is no doubt assembling for the expected launch of the dry-eye treatment.

To contact the writer of this story email Lisa Urquhart in London at [email protected] or follow @LisaEPVantageon Twitter

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