Thursday, October 25, 2007

Who Do You Buy?

(Apologies to Bo Diddley and George Thorogood and The Destroyers)

Who Do You Buy?

I walked 850,000-square feet in Cambridge, I got Tysabri for a drug.
A pipeline full of products, and it's a-made out of biologics.
Got Carl Icahn as a suitor, and it's a-made my stock price soar.
Come on take a little walk with me Kindler, and tell me who do you buy?
Who do you buy?
Who do you buy?

It's official. The biotech most likely to be bought as determined by our completely non-random, totally unscientific poll is...drumroll, please...Biogen Idec.

Fifty of the 106 people who completed the poll--a whopping 47%--believe that Biogen Idec is the most likely biotech candidate to be taken out in the coming weeks. We at IN VIVO Blog are certain the result has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Carl Icahn owns at least 1%--and as much as 4.9%--of the company or that it posted a for sale sign a couple of weeks ago and announced disappointing earnings yesterday.

Still there was clearly some disagreement among the poll takers. Sixteen cowards--15% percent of participants--refused to commit, hedging their bets by checking the "someone else" box. There was a two-way tie for third place, with Amgen and Genzyme each garnering 15 votes. And ImClone, poor ImClone, earned our wall-flower prize. Just 10 iconoclasts--a lowly 9%--think its ripe for the picking.

Now that we have finished mashing our metaphors, we'd like to thank the intrepid souls who devoted the two--maybe three--seconds it took to answer our questionnaire. (The rest of you are immeasurably lazy.) Like you, we are eager to know which biotech name we can eliminate from our Outlook folders. We remain steadfast in our belief that $23 billion--or more--for a company with encumbered products such as Rituxan and Tysabri is crazy money.

But we also understand that these are the times that try pharma execs souls. Your weekly bad news round-up (courtesy of Pharmalot and WSJ Health Blog, and of course IN VIVO Blog): Pfizer torches its costly inhaled insulin, Exubera (10/18); Schering Plough's stock price slumps(10/22); Roche stumbles on Amgen patents (10/23); Lilly anti-clotting drug stumbles on dosing(10/24); and GSK cutting costs as Avandia slumps (10/24).

As the bad news mounts, it's no wonder that pharma has been forced to reconsider its shunning of the large-molecule movement. As DataMonitor reported last week, these molecules really do have lower clinical failure rates, improved safety profiles, and the potential for billion-dollar revenue streams. (Newsflash: specialty drugs can be blockbusters!)

It's no accident that the companies most often rumored to be in the chase for Biogen Idec--Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, and GSK--are, as we describe in this October IN VIVO piece, biologics "wannabes". These pharmas have been active on the deal-making front, trying to make up for their past indifference by spending their share-holders dividends. (In the past five years, for instance, Pfizer has inked at least 20 biologics deals and spent $2 billion to acquire 5 companies, while GSK has signed over a dozen partnerships and acquired 2 companies for nearly $2 billion.)
This chart, also from our latest IN VIVO, shows how the "wannabes" stack up to biologics "haves" such as Roche and Lilly. We even have a score-card where we rate the pharmas, but you have to be a subscriber--or buy the article--to see that one.

It's not clear whether Pfizer and it's "have-not" brethren have decided on the optimal strategy for acquiring biologics capabilities. Perhaps they'll continue to opt for serial acquisition, piecemealing capabilities in $500 million chunks. Or maybe, the execs in pharma-land will decide that AstraZeneca was on to something when it paid $15.6 billion for MedImmune and got soup-to-nuts biologics capabilities with one deal.

Who knows? Only time--and the acquisition of Biogen Idec--will tell.

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