Tuesday, May 27, 2008

While You Were BBQing (on Mars)

In the event your Memorial Day / Bank Holiday weekend didn't involve a glance at the news, let us inform you that NASA landed another probe on Mars, to scoop up some Martian ice and cook it up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit to sniff out trace chemicals in the vapor, in an attempt to find signs of previous life there. With luck your own barbeques were less costly, not as burnt, involved fresher food and were at least a little tastier. It's tough to beat Phoenix's view, however, and we can't be the only ones who want a grill that looks like that (so long as it's made by Weber, naturally).

The budget for Phoenix's 422 million mile trip was about $420 million, most of which came from NASA aside from a $37 million weather instrument supplied by Canada (presumably already paid for, because now that Canada's mad at FDA--see below--checks could start bouncing).

With yet another big-upfront technology licensing deal (this time with Japan's big dealmaker Takeda), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals can probably afford to foot the bill for NASA's next mission, providing the destination may provide them access to new companies eager to spend a ton of money to non-exclusively license Alnylam's RNAi platform.

This time they didn't have to go as far afield, though for the first time they've branched out into Japan. We'll have more to say on the deal later today so watch this space. For now we give you the basics: $100 million in up-front cash and $50 million in near-term technology transfer payments for non-exclusive license to Alny's platform in oncology and metabolic disease, first right of negotiation on Alny's RNAi programs in Asia (excluding ALN-RSV01). Alnylam also gets opt-in rights for 50/50 co-dev/co-commercialization deals on Takeda programs in the US market, plus the usual gajillion biobucks in development and commercial milestone payments.

UPDATE: We've written a post on the Alnylam/Takeda deal, here.

And what else went on over the long weekend?

  • On Monday Novartis said the EU had greenlit Extavia, its brand of interferon beta-1b for multiple sclerosis. Extavia is the same as Bayer-Schering's Betaferon/Betaseron; Novartis gained the right to market its version in a 2007 settlement with Bayer after it bought Chiron (which manufactured the drug for Schering) in 2006. Launch of the interferon in the US and Europe in 2009 should allow the company to secure a beachhead in the MS market before introducing its novel oral therapy fingolimod (FTY720), which is currently in Phase III.
  • HHS Sec. Michael Leavitt says red tape is slowing FDA's push to get boots on the ground in China. (AP, at WSJ.)
  • Health care stocks are no longer a port in an economic storm, reminds the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. The paper quizzes a few fund managers on why, and looks for exceptions to the rule.
  • The Sunday Times is reporting that Elan is mulling a spin-off of its drug delivery business (Elan Drug Technology), but that any move will likely wait until later this summer when it has a better handle on the success or otherwise of its Alzheimer's disease program. (via reuters.) Wait. Haven't we heard this before?

  • And finally ... look out FDA! You've gone and pissed off Canada ...

image: NASA

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