Lundbeck has hit the acquisition trail and is buying the UK’s LifeHealth Ltd as well as fellow Danish firm NeuronIcon.

First up, the Copenhagen-based firm is shelling out $147 million to buy the Berkshire-headquartered group saying that the deal is “a logical next step” follwing its acquisition in March of the USA’s Ovation Pharmaceuticals. One of the latter’s key products is Xenazine (tetrabenazine) for chorea associated with Huntington's disease, but LifeHealth owns 25% of the sales of the drug in the USA and Canada, less production costs.

LifeHealth also holds about 50% of non-North American sales of the product “to distributors into the territories”, Lundbeck said, so by acquiring the UK firm, it “substantially increases its economic share of the tetrabenazine asset and retains certain rights to all future indications, including the controlled-release formulation currently in development”. Lundbeck chief executive Ulf Wiinberg noted that Xenazine is the only US Food and Drug Administration-approved product for patients suffering from chorea associated with Huntington's disease and it has been doing very well since its US launch in November last year.

Lundbeck believes the sales potential for Xenazine in the USA, where 20,000-25,000 patients suffer from the disease, to be more than $250 million. Mr Wiinberg added that “this new transaction strengthens Lundbeck's US platform and materially improves the earnings outlook” across the Atlantic. The deal will be immediately accretive to profits and is being financed using currently available cash resources.

Meantime Lundbeck is also acquiring the privately-owned biotechnology group NeuronIcon for an undisclosed sum.

Aarhus-based NeuronIcon is developing new therapies for acute brain damage after strokes or skull fractures. The firm has “produced new knowledge about why and how nerve cells in the brain are lost”, said Jan Egebjerg, director of Lundbeck's biologic research unit, and its “promising technologies provide a solid foundation for Lundbeck to develop new pharmaceuticals for improved treatment of the very serious brain disorders that lead to nerve cell destruction," he added.

NeuronIcon was founded by scientists at the University of Aarhus and is based on research conducted there and at the University of Berlin. Lundbeck said that these scientists “have made the world's first discoveries of how the body's own protein, sortilin, kills nerve cells if activated in special situations that arise in connection with disorders such as stroke, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases”

Lundbeck has also signed an agreement with the University of Aarhus, giving it certain rights to any new discoveries made over the next three years.