A couple of days after spending $420 million to acquire kidney disease specialist Ilypsa, Amgen has snapped up another privately-held firm, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Alantos Pharmaceuticals.

The US biotechnology giant is shelling out $300 million in cash to acquire Alantos, which is developing drugs for the treatment of diabetes and inflammatory diseases, and the deal, which subject to the usual conditions, is expected to close in the third quarter.

The principal attraction of Alantos is its lead candidate ALS 2-0426, an orally administered dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitor, which in turn inactivates glucagon-like peptide-1, an important mediator of blood glucose levels following meals. Phase IIa studies of the drug, which belongs to the same class as Merck & Co’s Januvia (sitagliptin) and Novartis’ Galvus (vildagliptin), were initiated in May in collaboration with France’s Servier, which is responsible for the development and commercialisation of the compound outside the USA.

Roger Perlmutter, Amgen's executive vice president for R&D, said the DPP-4 inhibitor is a welcome addition “to our growing portfolio of therapeutics for the treatment of metabolic diseases," and added that his firm also intends to keep working on Alantos’ matrix metalloproteinase-13 programme “with the hope of bringing a novel, disease-modifying therapy into the clinic for osteoarthritis”.

Analyst have welcomed the acquisition, and indeed that of Ilypsa, especially given the controversy surrounding the firm's erythropoiesis-stimulating agents Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) and Epogen (epoetin alfa), easily Amgen’s two-biggest earners.

Lobby firm hired to deal with Medicare

Days after a US Food and Drug Association advisory committee recommended a further strengthening of the warning labels on the drugs last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed limiting payments for the two in response to safety concerns. As part of its response, Amgen has hired Quinn Gillespie & Associates to lobby the federal government on issues related to Medicare reimbursement and US Food and Drug Administration regulation.