Amgen has opened its wallet and unveiled plans to buy Micromet, a biotech with its R&D centre in Munich and headquarters in Rockville, USA, for $1.16 billion.

Amgen is offering $11 per share in cash, and the acquisition includes blinatumomab, a bispecific T cell engager (BiTE) antibody in Phase II for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The drug is also in studies for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The companies already have a partnership in place. In July last year, they signed a deal involving the development of BiTE antibodies against three undisclosed solid tumour targets.

Micromet's pipeline includes solitomab, a BiTE antibody in Phase I for advanced solid tumours. Amgen will also be entitled to milestone and royalties from the company's existing licensees of BiTE (such as Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim and Bayer) and other technologies.

Amgen chief executive Kevin Sharer said the acquisition "is an opportunity to acquire an innovative oncology asset with global rights and a validated technology platform with broad potential clinical applications".

The deal has gone down fairly well with analysts and Joshua Schimmer at Leerink Swann issued a research note saying the assets are "attractive, albeit at a price tag higher than we would have wanted to see". However, Robyn Karnauskas at Deutsche Bank noted that "our initial take is that this acquisition is outside of Amgen's core expertise". She added that "we recently met with Micromet management and took home that the regulatory pathway for blinatumomab was still uncertain".

Anaemia drugs decline hits earnings again

Meantime, Amgen posted its financials for the fourth quarter, which showed that net income fell 9% to $934 million, while turnover increased 3% to $3.97 billion.

The figures reflect a decline in revenues from its anaemia drug Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa), down 15% to $538 million and its older erythropoiesis stimulating agent, Epogen (epoetin alfa), which fell 18% to $486 million. Combined turnover of Amgen’s white blood cell stimulators Neulasta (pegfilgrastim) and Neupogen (filgrastim) increased 7% to $1.32 billion, while sales of the anti-inflammatory Enbrel (etanercept), partnered with Pfizer’s Wyeth unit and sold by Amgen in North America, inched up 1% at $945 million.

Sensipar/Mimpara (cinacalcet), for the treatment of secondary hyperparathyroidism in dialysis patients, rose 15% to $216 million, while sales of the colorectal cancer drug Vectibix (panitumumab) increased 10% to $87 million. Nplate (romiplostim), for the treatment of chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura, increased 23% to $80 million.

Sales of Prolia (denosumab) for the treatment of postmenopausal women at increased risk of osteoporotic fractures, reached $81 million, up 59%, while Xgeva (also denosumab) for the treatment of bone metastases to reduce skeletal related events in patients with cancer, leapt 31% to $134 million.