Been reading the news this week? Apparently the sky is falling in pharma land. The WSJ reports that pharma's golden age is on the wane thanks to looming patent expirations and a poor track record in product approvals. (Hmm. Where have we heard that before?) BMS is the latest pharma to announce lay-offs--yesterday it announced 10% of its workforce would go. China's drug manufacturing capabilities pose a national security risk according to the Kansas City Star. Poor Carl Icahn: it looks like Henri Temeer and Genzyme will elude his clutches after all. (For more on Genzyme's strategy, make sure to watch for our upcoming IN VIVO feature.) And an FDA advisory panel nixed the use of Genentech's Avastin for breast cancer, sending the company's stock price plunging. (C'est la vie. You can't win 'em all right?)
- Novartis/Morphosys: First up: we tip our hats to Morphosys for their avoidance of pure "biobucks" figures in telling the world what they stand to gain in milestones from their latest HuCAL alliance with Novartis, announced Monday. Revolutionary! Now on to the deal, which for Morphosys is a bit revoluationary itself. Novartis will pay the antibody specialists $600 million over ten years in committed payments (roughly 50/50 technology license fees and research support), with an additional $400 million (non-biobucks) in predicted milestone payments. Morphosys basically consolidates its discovery partnership program into this one deal--as older deals come up for renewal, they'll just expire; for example the biotech's deals with Bayer-Schering and Centocor, scheduled to expire at the end of the year, will do so. Interestingly, Morphosys is maintaining more than a small amount of independence. Novartis remains the biotech's largest shareholder, but hasn't upped its stake beyond the 7% it already held, and does not get a seat on the Morphosys board. Morphosys won't be doing any more discovery deals, but will be able to do product-focused outlicensing deals at its leisure. Novartis gains a fully human antibody discovery engine without breaking the bank.
- Merck/Addex: Not a huge deal, cash wise, but the kind of deal Addex's investors were hoping for. Addex gets $3 million upfront from Merck & Co. plus milestones and undisclosed royalties. The companies are targeting the mGluR4 receptor to develop treatments for Parkinson's disease and other indications. Addex's allosteric modulation platform essentially allows modulation of GPCRs without binding to the receptor's active site, leaving that prime real estate open for the receptor's endogenous ligand.
- Pfizer/Adolor: On Wednesday, Adolor signed a deal with Pfizer worth $30 million up-front and $232.5 million more in milestones for two compounds for pain conditions, ADL5859 and ADL5747. Both compounds belong to the delta opioid receptor agonist class, a class of pain drugs related to morphine and oxycodone, but potentially without their debilitating side-effects. As part of the deal, the two companies will split revenues and expenses in the US 60/ 40 with Pfizer taking the lion's share and Adolor retaining co-promotion rights. This is the third big deal this year for Pfizer in the pain space. This summer the company added to its pipeline, signing a $195 million deal with Hydra Biosciences for its TRPV3 antagonists and a $1 billion-plus deal with Icagen for a sodium channel modulator (For more coverage of the pain space see this 2006 IN VIVO story.) This is some much needed good news for Adolor. The company's stock was decimated earlier this year when the FDA put the brakes on the company's mu-opioid receptor antagonist Entereg because of concerns about its lack of and potential CV side-effects. (For more on this product and other GI-related opioid compounds check out this November IN VIVO feature.)
- Lilly/Aveo: Precision Therapeutics wasn't the only diagnostic company making news this week. (For more on Precision's merger with Oracle Healthcare Acquisition Corp. check out this IN VIVO Blog post.) Cancer biomarker play Aveo Pharmaceuticals announced Tuesday it had struck a deal with Lilly to help the pharma identify patients who respond to one of its cancer drugs under development. Aveo's famous for its in vivo cancer models--essentially mice that have been engineered to develop tissue-specific cancers under controllable conditions. To date, the company also has biomarker discovery deals with Schering Plough, Merck, and OSI Pharmaceuticals. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed but if there anything like the $20 million agreement Aveo inked with OSI earlier this fall, it's unlikely there's big money on the table. Historically, that's been one of the problems with the business models of these molecular diagnostic companies. Although they can sign somewhat lucrative fee-for-service deals with pharmas, these partnerhips never seem to translate into upside related to the actual commericalization of a product.
- Fresenius Medical Care/Renal Solutions: On November 29, the German dialysis product maker announced it was buying Renal Solutions, a venture-backed sorbent cartridge maker for as much as $190 million. Just two years ago, Fresenius bet big, buying Renal Care Group for $3.7 billion. That transaction gave the German company an important foothold in the US market, giving it access to more than 30,000 patients at over 425 dialysis centers. The company also made waves when it agreed to a five-year sole-supplier deal with Amgen in October 2006 for that biotech's Epogen and Aranesp. The reason: many critics saw it as aiding Amgen's strategy to prevent widespread US uptake of a competing product from Roche called Mircera. (For more on Amgen and its anemia franchise click here.)