Shire, which is once more being mentioned as a potential takeover target, has hit the acquisition trail itself to buy Australia's Fibrotech and posted strong sales growth again.

The company is paying $75 million upfront, plus undisclosed contingent payments  to acquire privately-held Fibrotech, which specialises in renal and fibrotic diseases. FT011, the latter's lead molecule, is currently in a Phase Ib study in patients with renal impairment and the first Phase II trial is planned to enroll patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare fibrotic kidney disease with high unmet medical need.

Shire says that given recent advancements in the scientific understanding of fibrosis, "as well as the development of biomarkers to aid in clinical development, it is an exciting time to expand our interest in anti-fibrotic agents".

ADHD drug Vyvanse keeps rising

As for its first-quarter results, Shire's non-GAAP operating income jumped 40% to $591 million, while revenues rose 18% to $1.35 billion. Turnover was again driven by the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), which climbed 18% to $351.2 million. Sales of its off-patent predecessor Adderall XR (mixed amphetamine salts) fell 15% to $85.1 million, while another ADHD drug, Intuniv (guanfacine), had sales of $82.3 million (+6%).

As for Shire's rare diseases portfolio, Replagal (agalsidase alfa) for Fabry disease was flat at $114.3 million, Vpriv (velaglucerase alfa) for Gaucher's disease rose 6% to $86.9 million and the Hunter Syndrome therapy Elaprase (idursulfase) climbed 13% to $128.6 million. Pentasa (mesalamine) inched up 2% to $72.3 million and the firm’s newer ulcerative colitis drug Lialda/Mezavant soared 28% to $128.9 million.

ViroPharma contribution

Shire also benefited from the performance of the hereditary angioedema drug Cinryze (C1 inhibitor [human]), acquired through its recent purchase of ViroPharma. It contributed $85.6 million, up 16%, while Shire's other HAE drug Firazyr (icatibant) leapt 80% to $74.9 million.

Chief executive Flemming Ornskov said the firm's "sharpened strategy", the addition of Cinryze and "our continued focus on operational discipline have all contributed to this strong financial performance". He added that "we have multiple drivers of growth within our portfolio".

Unsurprisingly, Shire, whose stock has leapt 70% in the last year, is at the centre of merger speculation. Last week, Allergan was reportedly interested in making a bid to ward off Valeant's unsolicited offer and now analysts at Societe Generale have issued a research note suggesting that AstraZeneca, which has twice rejected Pfizer's advances, may put in a £30 billion bid for Shire.

Mr Ornskov did not comment on the rumours but said that for Shire, size is not the main criteria but getting hold of innovative compounds is. The company will look at more bolt-ons if "the financials make sense", he said.