Thursday, March 20, 2008

Deals of the Week: TGIS

Thank goodness it's spring. It's been a long, dark winter in pharma land, both metaphorically and in reality. This week proved no exception. Share prices at Basilea, Epix Pharmaceuticals, and Pharming all plunged on bad development or regulatory news, while Alkermes and Kosan both announced staff cuts. Pfizer is closing its Groton manufacturing plant and laying off another 80 employees, while China confirms it was the source of the heparin contaminant that was responsible for nearly 800 adverse events and 19 deaths.

But despite the bad news there are reasons to hope, especially on the regulatory front, where our own RPM writers are seeing--if not a rapid warming--at least a mild thaw. Cephalon's Treanda, for instance, won approval to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Meanwhile, QLT seems to have persuaded FDA that a blood test is not necessary before doctors prescribe it's new acne drug, Aczone. Aczone was approved three years ago but never commercialized as the company set up additional clinical trials to ensure that the labeling would not mandate a blood test prior to prescriptions, an onerous step that would have limited drug sales.

On the deal-making side there was little to celebrate or mourn this week. Perhaps that's because so many attended either this week's Cowen and Co. conference, or Windhover's own BioWindhover and Pharmaceutical Strategic Outlook meetings (where, of course, those in the know were present). Given the schmoozing, undoubtedly there will be more to report on in the near future.

Presidio Pharmaceuticals/ XTL Biopharmaceuticals: There was one small tie-up worth noting in the HCV space this week. Presidio Pharmaceuticals inked a deal with XTL Biopharmaceuticals worth a $4 million in upfront fees and another $104 million in potential milestones. The deal is centered around XTL's preclinical molecule NS5A, which is in advanced stages of lead optimization. As part of the deal, Presidio obtained rights to several distinct chemical entities, including molecules that exhibit activity against both the HCV1a and HCV1b genotypes. Last year, Presidio outlicensed technology from Stanford in the HCV arena; and in February the company inked a research agreement with Numerate to build small molecule hepatitis C drugs. Still it's a space in which it's been tricky to succeed. XTL suffered it's own failure last June, when its Phase I molecule XTL-2125 was unable to reduce HCV viral load below levels seen with a placebo. The company discontinued the program. To diversify, in early 2007 XLT in-licensed Dov's neuropathic pain drug,bicifadine, in a deal worth $19 million.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ga Music Maker through a commons license.)

No comments: