Shire has hit the acquisition trail again and is paying $260 million cash upfront to buy US rare disease specialist Lumena Pharmaceuticals.

The attraction that San Diego-based Lumena brings is a pipeline that is headed by two new oral hepatic therapeutics. First up, LUM001 is an inhibitor of the apical sodium-dependent bile acid transporter (ASBT) and is in Phase II for four rare cholestatic liver disease indications - two paediatric and two adult - with a potential 2016 launch.

LUM002, which is also an ASBT inhibitor, is in development for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which Shire notes is "a common and often 'silent' disease characterised by fat deposits in the liver and inflammation" which can progress to fibrosis. The compound will enter Phase II later this year.
 
As well as the upfront cash fee, privately-owned Lumena is also in line for another undisclosed payment at closing, and near-term contingent milestone payments related to ongoing clinical trials.

Shire said the acquisition complements its focus on rare diseases and "provides a future growth path" for its gastrointestinal business, which generated revenues of over $800 million in 2013. The company added that it is "gaining experience in liver disease with the opportunity to leverage its existing GI commercial infrastructure" and Lumena is a good fit with its acquisition earlier this month of Fibrotech.
 
Chief executive Flemming Ornskov said "we are excited by the possibilities of these new assets in liver disease", adding that "we have the resources, the infrastructure and the operating capacity to invest in these new potential growth drivers".