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Pharma deals for January 2012

Deal watch: Round-up of pharma mergers and acquisitions announced during January 2012

Pharma deal watch - handshakeIn this regular review of deals we focus on transactions announced during January 2012. As usual for this series of articles we focus on those deals where financial terms are disclosed.

This month saw the year start with several large value deals being concluded. Topping the table were some significant acquisitions - most notably the acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) of infection-focused biopharma Inhibitex. This deal reinforces the high value that is being set on the hepatitis C assets following on from the multi-billion dollar deal closed November 2011 by Gilead when the company acquired Pharmasset for $11bn.

The price tag in hepatitis C is now set very high and it is likely that there will be more deals in this competitive space. Inhibitex's lead product, INX 189 is an oral nucleotide polymerase inhibitor which is in phase II clinical development. To date INX 189 has shown potent antiviral activity and the acquisition was valued at approximately $2.5bn with a cash value of $26.00 per share.

Hovering around the billion dollar mark were three other acquisitions: Alexios buying Enobia; Amgen's purchase of Micromet; and Celgene acquiring Avila. Enobia's lead product ENB 0040 is an enzyme replacement therapy for patients with hypophosphotaemia. This is an orphan indication and ENB 0040 is currently in phase II clinical development. An all cash transaction, this consolidates Alexion's position in rare diseases.

The Amgen and Micromet deal is also pipeline providing and a key factor, as was noted by Amgen's CEO, was “to acquire an innovative oncology asset with global rights and a validated technology platform”.

In acquiring Avila, Celgene are also gaining access to a platform with a potentially broader base than oncology, stepping into immunological fields.

Acquisition does seem to be the business model of choice right now for many companies, and those companies not sure about the risk are electing to take an option to acquire at a later date.  For example, Sanofi has an option to acquire in place with its deal with Warp Drive Bio giving the company time to determine whether the technology is appropriate before being able to move in and close the acquisition.

Similarly, Genentech have entered into a collaboration with Constellation Pharmaceuticals based on their epigenetics and chromatin biology platform. As part of the deal terms, Genentech has retained a future option to acquire Constellation.

Bearing in mind the number of deals which are terminating early, this approach does seem to offer the best of both worlds: an opportunity to work with the asset to assess its merits with long-term access under agreed terms should the company elect to go forward.

The option model of course can also be deployed to product deals as evidenced by Biogen Idec in its agreement with Isis. This option and collaboration agreement gives Biogen access to Isis' antisense product ISIS SMNRx which is under development for spinal muscular atrophy. The option remains in place until the completion of the phase II/III trials.

Forma Therapeutics had a bumper month closing two major deals: one with Boehringer Ingelheim and the second with Janssen Biotech. In the Janssen deal, the companies will collaborate on the discovery and development of small molecules which target tumour metabolism mechanisms. In a similar model, the deal with Boehringer focuses on small molecules against oncology relevant protein-protein interactions. Not surprisingly the two parallel deals had similar financial terms.

Some European mid-cap companies also featured this month with deals being reported from Almirall, Leo and Servier. The Leo deal was for a first in class oral treatment for psoriasis with the US company Virobay. Phase I studies are planned for the final quarter of 2012.  This deal carried a headline value of $307m which included an upfront payment of $7m plus tiered royalties.

Servier continued their run of deals from 2011, agreeing a partnership with Bioinvent. This antibody collaboration is focused on an oncology target provided by Servier, which is involved in tumour cell metabolism. BioInvent will screen its proprietary n-CoDeR library for antibodies specific to the target and Servier will also gain access to BioInvent's expertise in selecting an antibody candidate for development. BioInvent will receive fees, research support and potential milestone payments valued in excess of €11m  as well as royalty on future sales of the product.

Almirall and BioFocus entered into a research alliance aimed to deliver drug candidates to a certain respiratory target. BioFocus will provide the discovery capabilities and Almirall the respiratory know how. All of these deals are in core strategic areas for their respective companies.

Like Forma, January was also a good month for Apricus who closed deals with Stellar and Abbott. Apricus Biosciences secured $16m for the Canadian marketing rights for Vitaros which is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Stellar Pharmaceuticals also signed an exclusive licence agreement with Apricus to market MycoVa for onychomycosis in Canada. Detailed financial terms were not disclosed.

Also making headlines this month was the patent settlement between Genentech and Regeneron. This non exclusive licence covering the ophthalmic sales of Eylea [aflibercept] incurred a payment of $60m by Regeneron to Genentech. Regeneron will also pay royalties at the rate of 4.75 per cent on sales between $400m and $3bn rising to 5.5 per cent for sales above $3bn. This agreement brings to a close the patent litigation between the parties.

Overall, a good start to 2012, but it will be interesting to see how long it is before the record is broken for the highest value deal. 

Licensor acquired / partner acquiror Deal type  Product / Technology Headline
Inhibitex / BMS Acquisition INX 189 for hepatitis C 2,500
Enobia / Alexion Acquisition ENB 0040 for Hypophosphatasia  1,080
Micromet / Amgen Acquisition Blinatumomab in P2 for ALL and other antibodies 1,000
Avila / Celgene Acquisition Btk inhibitor AVL 292 and covalent drugs which act through protein silencing 925
Forma Therapeutics / Boehringer Ingelheim  Collaboration Small molecules against oncology protein interactions 815
Forma Therapeutics / Janssen Biotech Alliance Small molecules against tumour metabolism targets 700
Xenon / Genentech Strategic alliance New compounds and diagnostics for the treatment of pain 646
Ironwood / Bionomics Collaboration and licence NC 210 in the treatment of anxiety  345
Virobay / LEO Development, licence Oral treatment for psoriasis 307
Isis / Biogen Idec Exclusive worldwide option to license ISIS SMNRx antisense for spinal muscular atrophy 299
Essex Woodlands Health Ventures / Smith & Nephew Joint venture Bioventus formed to market biological and clinical therapies 258
BioDelivery / Endo Worldwide licence and development BioErodible MicroAdhesive buprenorphine for chronic pain 180
Warp Drive Bio / Sanofi Option to acquire Discovery programme for novel disease pathways 125
Constellation / Genentech Research collaboration, option to acquire Epigenetic target classes 95
Genentech / Regeneron Licence in patent settlement US sales of Eylea (aflibercept) VEGF receptor proteins 60
Bayer HealthCare / Spectrum Pharmaceuticals Acquisition of product rights from Bayer Zevalin in non Hodgkins lymphoma outside US 24.7
Abbott  / Apricus Commercialisation, licence in Canada Vitaros for erectile dysfunction 16
BioInvent  International / Servier Collaboration Antibody collaboration for an oncology target in tumour cell metabolism  14.3
Biofocus / Almirall Drug discovery alliance Identifying novel drug candidates in respiratory field 9.93
Apricus / Stellar Pharmaceuticals Exclusive licence in Canada MycoVa for the treatment of onychomycosis 7.84


 Sharon Finch

The Author

Sharon Finch is a consultant at Medius Associates 

1st March 2012


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