AstraZeneca’s $1.3 billion acquisition of Cambridge Antibody Technology gives US biotechnology firm Genzyme an opportunity to gain control over GC1008, a drug for fibrosis of the lung.

GC1008 comes out of a programme between CAT and Genzyme, started in 2000, to identify monoclonal antibodies against transforming growth factor (TGF) beta. The contract contains a buyout clause, should CAT change ownership.

The antibody has already started a Phase I clinical trial in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic disease characterised by progressive scarring of the lungs, and may also have applications in other fibrotic diseases, such as kidney sclerosis which can lead to renal failure, as well as cancer.

IPF affects approximately 100,000 patients worldwide with an estimated 50% mortality within three years, and it has no approved therapy, according to Genzyme. Analysts have suggested that, if successful, GC-1008 could achieve sales in excess of $500 million at peak.

AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan said that the company would be in discussions with Genzyme about the rights to GC1008, as well as an 8.6% stake in CAT that the US biotech owns.