This Inhaler Company Could be Big Tobacco’s Next Target for Acquisition

Philip Morris International took the world by surprise when it announced it would acquire Vectura Group, an inhaler technology and platform company, in September 2021. The main concern – what is Philip Morris going to do with a company that helps develop technology for inhalable medicine delivery? Treating the very respiratory diseases its products cause doesn’t seem the likely choice. 

Philip Morris says the acquisition is part of its “natural evolution into a broader healthcare and wellness company” as well as an effort to move “beyond nicotine.” Vectura’s technology is going to be used to reduce the risks associated with smoking tobacco products. Many big tobacco companies are moving toward healthier alternatives to smoking tobacco. Given the recent interest and transition into a wellness company, another inhaler technology company could be on the big tobacco radar for acquisition.  

Pulmatrix, Inc. is a clinical stage biotechnology company that develops and owns intellectual property for dry-powder inhalables (DPIs) utilizing sodium chloride. The company has a total of 6 patent assets and 2 pending patents that are continuations as of November 17, 2021 which are related to its iSPERSE DPI technology. iSPERSE can be used to deliver drugs, peptides, small molecules, proteins, and nucleic acids into the lungs for efficient delivery and penetration. Another feature of iSPERSE technology is its dispersibility which allows for adequate dosing and deep lung penetration from lower inspiratory flow. While none of Pulmatrix’s patent assets mention nicotine as a drug for delivery, the patent continuation-in-part practice can be used to insert matter that wasn’t present in the parent patent. However, cannabinoids are mentioned in the patents as a drug for delivery which could be used to push Phillip Morris “beyond nicotine.”

Pulmatrix was acquired in 2015 by Ruthigen, Inc. to provide more capital to Pulmatrix for developing DPI solutions for respiratory diseases and has three ongoing studies for treating acute exacerbations in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (PUR1800), acute migraine (PUR3100), and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in patients with asthma (Pulmazole). Whether Pulmatrix would be willing to give up this therapeutic pursuit to develop healthier nicotine delivery products is yet to be suggested, but it shouldn’t be immediately discounted as a possibility. What is more clear is that it isn’t a coincidence that big tobacco companies are transitioning to becoming healthcare and wellness companies as cannabis and psychedelics soar in popularity worldwide. 

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