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Actelion buys US biotech firm CoTherix

Switzerland has the highest "biotech density" per capita in the world, with 229 companies (Actelion)

Swiss biopharmaceutical firm Actelion is to acquire the US-based biotech company CoTherix in a deal worth around $420 million (SFr521.9 million).

CoTherix currently markets Ventavis, the only approved inhaled therapy for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension in the United States.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension is a potentially fatal disease where the blood pressure increases in the arteries between the heart and lungs.

The takeover, which has been endorsed by CoTherix's board, is still subject to regulatory approvals and expected to be concluded in the first quarter of 2007.

The Basel-based company said on Monday it would finance the CoTherix acquisition entirely from existing cash balances.

Actelion hopes that sales of Ventavis will contribute more than $100 million to its product revenues.

"We expect that the transaction will generate immediate substantial value, adding top-line revenue and bottom-line cash earnings," Jean-Paul Clozel, Actelion's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Actelion has a long-standing relationship with CoTherix developed through a shared focus on pulmonary hypertension and the US company has looked into the combined use of Ventavis and Actelion's key drug Tracleer in clinical trials.

Tracleer is approved for use in pulmonary hypertension and could gain approval in several new indications.

"Based on that relationship, the two companies had previously commenced discussions regarding the strong strategic fit between the two businesses," Actelion said.

The deal will allow Actelion to strengthen its pipeline and its market position in pulmonary hypertension, a London-based analyst told Reuters.

"On balance the market is probably relieved that they've bought something...that's not overly expensive and strengthens their position on Tracleer," the analyst said.

But Actelion should be careful that it does not become too reliant on the pulmonary hypertension market, he said.

The takeover talks had been put on hold while CoTherix met unspecified contractual obligations and were resumed on Friday, Actelion said.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland is ranked sixth in Europe and tenth worldwide since 1998 in terms of the number of biotech companies on its soil.

Almost half of all Swiss biotech companies were founded before 1995.

Geographically the majority of these companies are located on Lake Geneva or around Basel and Zurich.

All three areas benefit from the proximity of universities and biotech incubators.

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Key facts

(April 2006 figures)
Switzerland now has 229 biotech companies.
Nine companies rank amongst the globally active "players."
Around 200 other companies have fewer than 50 employees.
88% of the companies are engaged in "red" biotechnology (human and animal medicine).
8% in the area of environmental protection and industry.
6% in the agricultural and feedstuffs sector.

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