Sandoz, the generics arm of Swiss drug giant Novartis, has signed an agreement to acquire private US pharmaceutical group Oriel Therapeutics and thus gain a stronger foothold in the respiratory market.

While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Sandoz did say that Oriel will be integrated as a separate development unit within the company, and that the move will give it exclusive rights to a portfolio of generic drug candidates and related technologies targeting medicines in the inhalable respiratory drug market.

Oriel’s activities are concentrated on the development of respiratory products with known pathways as generic alternatives to patented drugs for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and with the purchase Sandoz will gain rights to the novel FreePath drug delivery system and Solis multi-dose dry powder inhaler.

In addition, the firm will get its hands on three promising development projects, the approval of which will enable Sandoz to increase access to affordable therapeutic alternatives for respiratory diseases, it said.

'Strong fit'
Explaining the company’s attraction to Oriel, Jeff George, Division Head Sandoz, said the US group is “a strong strategic fit” that is expected to support its strategy of boosting the number of differentiated, higher-value products in its development pipeline. In addition, he said the respiratory market is “a key area of focus that complements our global leadership position in biosimilars and complex injectables”.

Around 50% of the current $32 billion-global market for asthma and COPD medicines is expected to lose patent protection by the end of 2016, the firm noted, illustrating the massive potential for copycat medicines in the respiratory arena.