Bayer spends up to $4bn on US biotech firm AskBio

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer said on Monday it will buy US-based biotech firm Asklepios BioPharmaceutical for as much as $4 billion as it aims to get a foothold in the rapidly growing gene-therapy market.

"With this acquisition, Bayer significantly advances the establishment of a cell and gene therapy platform that can be at the forefront of breakthrough science," chief executive Werner Baumann said in a statement.

Bayer, which hopes to close the deal by the end of the year, said it will pay $2 billion (€1.7 billion) upfront and a further $2 billion in milestone payments, 75% of which will be paid over the next five years.

North Carolina-based AskBio, founded in 2001, specialises in the research, development and manufacturing of gene therapies and has in its pipeline treatments for Parkinson's disease and congestive heart failure.

Bayer's previous investments in biotechnology include the acquisition of cell-therapy focused BlueRock Therapeutics for up to $1 billion in 2019.

The sprawling German company lost €9.5 billion in the second quarter of this year, reflecting legal costs after its controversial purchase of Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018.

It expects to save €1.5 billion by 2024, on top of the €2.6 billion of annual savings it expects to make from 2022, Bayer said earlier in October.

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