Friday, January 11, 2008

Deals of the Week: far from the Westin St. Francis

Attention JPMorgan attendees: we trust you've consumed enough resveratrol to make up for the pickled brain cells. Your steadfast Deals of the Week writer has been keeping tabs from afar and sighing over the gossip missed. (Feel free to drop a line with any juicy conference post-mortems.) Meantime, here's a review of the items you may have missed while talking it up at the Westin St. Francis.

Genzyme/Isis: The deal of the week, and the one generating all the buzz in the Westin hallways and Union Square restaurants was Genzyme's agreement with Isis for the southern California biotech's phase III anti-cholesterol medication mipomersen. As we wrote here, the deal, which included a $325 million up-front, $825 million in development and regulatory milestones, and an additional $750 million in commercial milestones, is a bold statement by specialist play Genzyme to remain an independent entity. Mipomersen, a lipid-lowering compound that targets apolipoprotein B-100, is a weekly injectable being investigated first for the rare, inherited disorder familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Henri Termeer, Genzyme's CEO, describes the asset in the press release as a “very Genzyme-like product.” No doubt he's also eyeing its possible use in the general population in patients with high cholesterol and at high risk of cardiovascular events who are ineligible for statin therapy.

Pfizer/Tacera: Genzyme wasn't the only company dealing in the biologics space this week. On Monday, Pfizer signed yet another large molecule deal, this time with Tacere Therapeutics for world-wide non-Asian rights to the biotech's RNAi hepatitis C drug, TT-033. (Back in June, Tacere brokered with Oncolys BioPharma for the Asian rights to the same compound.) TT-033 is pre-IND, but that didn't stop Pfizer from agreeing to pay--potentially--more than $145 million in development and commercialization milestones. And that doesn't include the undisclosed up-front fee signed by the two companies. Pfizer has been among the most aggressive of big pharma's biologics acquirers, buying both Coley Pharmaceuticals (vaccine technology) and CovX (antibody scaffolds) late last year, as well as inking licensing deals with Xoma (antibodies) and Direvo Biotech (bioengineered proteins) last fall.

Wyeth/ Mochida Pharmaceuticals: Wyeth was another big pharma betting heavily on a preclinical compound this week. On Jan. 9, the pharma announced a deal with Japanese drug maker Mochida Pharmaceuticals for that company's experimental pain medication, a TRPV1 antagonist. Financial terms were not disclosed, but news reports cited Wyeth paying a one-time payment upon the signing of the contract, as well as milestone payments. In addition, Mochida retains the right to co-develop and market the drug in Japan. TRPV1 antagonists are in vogue within Big Pharma: Eli Lilly and Merck both have compounds belonging to this class in development. As we've mentioned before, Wyeth is not known for its overly aggressive business development team, which prefers early stage licensing deals over major acquisitions. Clearly Mochida's TRPV1 dovetails nicely with such a strategy and adds to the company's pain franchise, which also includes (the recently delayed at FDA) methylnatrexone thanks to a 2005 deal with Progenics Pharmaceuticals. (Though whether the deal can stem some of the pain resulting from last summer's troubles with Pristiq and bifuprenox remains an open question.)

Teva Pharmaceuticals/India: The Business Standard reports that Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals plans to invest more than $1 billion dollars over the next 24 months buying Indian drug companies and setting up manufacturing facilities. We admit this isn't really a canonical deal of the week, but it does represent yet another example of off-shoring infrastructure, one of our major themes for 2008. (For more, check out the January issue of IN VIVO.) And it's not like this is something Teva is musing about doing. A few weeks ago, Teva acquired over 100 acres of land near Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, to set up active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing facilities that will match the production capacity of India's major generic players Ranbaxy, Cipla, and Dr Reddy’s.

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