Seems like many folks in pharma land are channeling Richard the Third this week. (Alas, there is no son of York to make winter's discontent glorious summer.)
Certainly staffers at both AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis are less than happy: both companies announced more job cuts this week. (AZ will lay-off some 300 R&D employees from its Alderly Park site while Sanofi plans to reduce its German sales staff by 380.) And, pity the poor VCs. The Star Ledger is reporting that VCs are accepting smaller returns on smaller deals and waiting longer to cash-out as a result of the global credit crunch and the flagging IPO market.
Finally, remember Trimeris? Back in December that company put its R&D activities on hold to review its strategic options. But management isn't moving fast enough for the company's largest shareholder, HealthCor. On Feb. 1, HealthCor officials wrote a letter to Trimeris executives asking for two board seats, stating: "We are not in favor of strategic transactions other than those involving a sale of the business." (Hmm. Maybe the HealthCor folks are actually channeling Carl Icahn...)
If you, too, are suffering the winter blues, fear not. The IN VIVO Blog has a cure. (WARNING: Side-effects may include motivational deficiency disorder, sudden on-set of snarkiness syndrome (SOSS), maniacal laughter, and IN VIVO Blog addiction. Hey, there are worse things...) You guessed it. It's that time again.
- Dynogen/Apex Bioventures Acquisition Corp.: On Wednesday, Dynogen and Apex Bioventures announced they have signed a definitive agreement that will allow Dynogen to become public through a merger with one of Apex Bioventure's subsidiaries. (In case you don't know, Apex Bioventures is a special purpose acquisition company--or SPAC--that raises money for the sole purpose of buying another entity. The key thing is the SPAC can't say whom its acquiring--or even considering acquiring--before it raises the money. SPACs have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the life sciences in recent years as an alternative to the IPO market or a reverse merger.) The move gives Dynogen plenty of cash--the press release says the company should have up to $65 million at the deal's closing. Dynogen will certainly need it. It's currently developing two Phase II-stage drugs for gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. And given pharma's own R&D heartburn in the space, Dynogen may need the additional data before a partner with deep-pockets will assume some of the development risk. In the past, SPACs have favored companies with a shorter runway to commercialization like Alsius and Precision Therapeutics so this combination will be interesting to watch.
- Amgen/Takeda: Hit by declining sales of its EPO franchise and growing competition, Amgen announced a monster two-part deal with Takeda this week. In Part I, Takeda gets Japanese rights to 12 of Amgen's pipeline assets in exchange for $200 million up-front, up to $340 million in development costs, and potentially $363 million in sales-linked milestones and royalties. The Japanese firm will also buy Amgen’s Japanese subsidiary for an undisclosed sum. In Part II, Takeda takes on worldwide rights to Phase III motesanib, a small molecule angiogenesis inhibitor for cancer, for another $100 million up-front and $175 million in additional success-based milestones. The deal embodies two major trends we’ve talked about: the need to cut unnecessary infrastructure and the importance of risk-sharing in the vein of Bristol-Myers Squibb's deals with AstraZeneca and Pfizer. (For a more in-depth look at the deal, see here and here.)
- GE Healthcare/ Whatman: On Monday, GE Healthcare announced it was buying Whatman, a global supplier of filtration products and technologies for approximately $713 million. That's a lot of money for a research tools business, even if Whatman posted 2007 revenues of more than $225 million. Still it's a far cry from the $8 billion GE planned to plunk down for Abbott's point-of-care and diagnostics businesses, a deal that was eventually scuppered. It's likely GE has realized it must resort to a serial acquisition strategy if it's to challenge Siemens for the title of global leader in IVD. And Whatman's filtration and sample prep technologies could play a key role in building better protein and DNA-based tests, an area in which GE is interested in bulking up. Meanwhile, we continue to ponder the fundamental connections between tool and test companies, something we wrote about here.
- GlaxoSmithKline/ Amira: Also on Monday, GSK and Amira teamed up to develop Amira's 5-lipoxygenase activating protein (FLAP) inhibitors in a deal that could be worth up to $425 million for the biotech. (But only if it meets all potential development and regulatory milestones. Makes you wonder what the up-front payment was, doesn't it?) Most of the flap...sorry, we couldn't resist...is about Amira's lead product, AM103, a once-daily, non-steroidal asthma treatment that just completed Phase I trials in November. This isn't the first monster deal Amira has inked. Back in 2006 it signed a deal with Roche worth up to $287 million to develop three anti-inflammatory candidates.
"West," by Flickr user Dreamer7112, used under a creative commons license.