Abbott Laboratories is shelling out $110 million to buy an investigational kidney drug from Denmark's Action Pharma.

The treatment in question, AP214, is in development to prevent acute kidney injury (AKI) associated with major cardiac surgery in patients at increased risk and has further potential in adjacent indications. Currently there are no pharmaceuticals on the market for this problem.

The drug is a first-in-class melanocortin peptide agonist that targets both inflammation and apoptosis caused by lack of blood flow that can occur during surgery. In September last year, privately-owned Action announced positive Phase IIb top-line results on AP214 and Abbott plans to conduct another Phase IIb study, which is expected to begin later this year.

The aforementioned $110 million is a one-off cash payment and Action will not be eligible for milestone payments or royalties. Also it will make an $11 million payment to fellow Danish firm Zealand Pharma which licensed technology used in the development of AP214 to Action in 2003. Zealand has now linked up with Abbott and also will be entitled to a low single-digit royalty on future global sales.

John Leonard, head of pharma R&D at Abbott, said that "clinical experience with AP214 in cardiac surgery patients suggests that it has the potential to be the first compound specifically approved to prevent AKI, a long-standing unmet need".  He added that the acquisition "complements and broadens Abbott's late-stage renal care pipeline and builds on our existing experience in treating kidney disease".

Abbott has two investigational treatments in development for chronic kidney disease - bardoxolone, a first-in-class anti-oxidant inflammation modulator that activates the Nrf2 gene which is in Phase III with partner Reata Pharmaceuticals, and atrasentan, a Phase IIb compound for diabetic kidney disease.