Shire has hit the acquisition trail and announced plans to buy the USA's FerroKin BioSciences and its investigational drug for iron overload.

The Ireland-based company is forking out an upfront fee of $100 million in cash, plus milestone payments of up to $225 million, depending upon clinical development, regulatory and sales targets. The deal means that Shire will get access to  FBS0701, a once-daily oral capsule for the treatment of iron overload due to chronic blood transfusions.

The drug has received orphan product designation from both the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency and Phase II studies are ongoing. Initial data presented at the American Society of Hematology meeting in December supports the potential for FBS0701 as an effective iron chelator with a favourable safety profile, the companies noted.

Shire believes that the drug shows potential to make inroads into a global market "currently worth over $900 million and growing". The company adds that the deal is consistent with its strategy of developing niche products prescribed by specialist doctors, "served by a small sales force".

Global filings initially will be for myelodysplastic syndrome and haemoglobinopathies and a potential launch has been earmarked as early as 2016.

Shire’s haematology chief Ross Murdoch said that "there remains a significant unmet need for a once-a-day, oral iron chelator in a convenient dosage form for the treatment of transfusional iron overload with a better safety profile than currently-available treatments". He added that "we believe FBS0701 has the potential to meet that need".

The current leading drug in treating iron overload is Novartis' Exjade (deferasirox)