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Pfizer to buy lung-focused biotech developer ReViral for as much as $525 mln

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Pfizer Inc. agreed to buy respiratory antiviral developer ReViral Ltd. for as much as $525 million, the COVID-19 vaccine maker’s latest move in the once-overlooked field of infectious disease.

UK-based ReViral is developing therapies for respiratory syncytial virus, a common lung ailment, and Pfizer said Thursday in a statement that annual revenue could top $1.5 billion. The proposed transaction is subject to closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals, Pfizer said.

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After years of neglect of infectious disease among big pharma companies, Pfizer along with rivals Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc., see a burgeoning market for vaccines that target RSV, which is particularly dangerous to young children, the immunocompromised, and the elderly. Among the US elderly, RSV accounts for 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths each year.

Last month, Pfizer received a breakthrough therapy designation for its RSV vaccine candidate, which is currently in clinical trials.

“Currently, treatment options for RSV are extremely limited and focus primarily on supportive care, Annaliesa Anderson,” chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s bacterial vaccines and hospital unit, said in the statement.

“The proposed acquisition of ReViral’s pipeline of therapeutic candidates is complementary to our efforts to advance the first vaccine candidate to help protect against this harmful disease.”

ReViral’s portfolio of drug candidates includes sisunatovir, an orally administered therapy designed to block RSV from attaching to cells. In a mid-stage trial, it reduced adults’ viral load, and it’s also being studied in infants.

The purchase of an earlier-stage private company in an area of unmet medical need could signal “a potential return to M&A, especially in an environment where companies seem to face hurdles going public,” said Robyn Karnauskas, an analyst at Truist Securities.

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