Kevin Conroy (Exact Sciences)

A month af­ter Il­lu­mi­na's big Grail buy­out, Ex­act Sci­ences scoops up liq­uid biop­sy ri­val Thrive for a rel­a­tive bar­gain

Il­lu­mi­na is go­ing to have a lot of work to do to prove Grail was worth those $8 bil­lion.

To­day, Ex­act Sci­ences an­nounced that it will ac­quire Thrive, Grail’s chief ri­val among the ear­ly can­cer de­tec­tion star­tups, for a size­able but rel­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate $2.15 bil­lion. The yawn­ing gap in part re­flects the vast dif­fer­ences in cap­i­tal that have been in­vest­ed to date in each com­pa­ny.  But both have gone toe-to-toe over the last year and a half, with Grail hav­ing pub­lished da­ta in over 50 can­cers but Thrive re­cent­ly beat­ing them to a key test for liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­nies.

In­vestors greet­ed the Thrive buy­out with more en­thu­si­asm than they did the Grail buy­out. While Il­lu­mi­na lost $8 bil­lion in mar­ket cap af­ter news of a like­ly Grail buy­out broke, Ex­act shares have surged 18% — $19 — this morn­ing.

The two liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­nies have now sold for a com­bined $10 bil­lion in a lit­tle over a month. The col­lec­tive bet re­flects a deep faith in cor­ners of the di­ag­nos­tic and se­quenc­ing worlds in the pow­er of a tech­nol­o­gy now years in the mak­ing.

The field has moved for­ward sub­stan­tial­ly since both com­pa­nies launched. In April, Thrive pub­lished re­sults in Sci­ence that showed for the first time that a blood test could help doc­tors de­tect and treat mul­ti­ple types of can­cer in oth­er­wise healthy peo­ple, hit­ting a long-await­ed mile­stone for a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing field, where the most vo­cif­er­ous back­ers think it can even­tu­al­ly save lives and re­make on­col­o­gy.

Still, al­though they’ve been dis­cussed in the same breath for years, both Grail and Thrive have tried to down­play the ri­val­ry. Both have point­ed out that they will need to se­cure in­sur­ance cov­er­age and re­im­burse­ment for a field that does not yet ex­ist. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple tests on the mar­ket could aid in that fight. If one test fails, it could sig­nif­i­cant­ly ham­per the ef­fort.

Ex­act Sci­ences makes for a more like­ly buy­er than Il­lu­mi­na. The di­ag­nos­tic com­pa­ny is best known for Co­lo­guard, their stool-based test for col­orec­tal can­cer, and they’ve been ag­gres­sive over the last year, ac­quir­ing Ge­nom­ic Health for $2.6 bil­lion and sign­ing ad­vanced mar­ket­ing agree­ments with Pfiz­er. The com­pa­ny en­vi­sions Thrive’s even­tu­al mar­ket as worth over $25 bil­lion.

“The ac­qui­si­tion of Thrive is a gi­ant leap to­ward en­sur­ing blood-based, mul­ti-can­cer screen­ing be­comes a re­al­i­ty and even­tu­al­ly, the stan­dard of care,” CEO Kevin Con­roy said in a state­ment. “We couldn’t be more ex­cit­ed that Ex­act Sci­ences will be at the fore­front of this in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­ni­ty to serve pa­tients.”

The deal is worth $1.7 bil­lion in up­front, paid in 65% Ex­act stock and 35% cash. An­oth­er $415 mil­lion is avail­able through in­cen­tives.

Janet Woodcock (Greg Nash/Pool via AP Images)

'I re­al­ly don’t look back': Janet Wood­cock on her tran­si­tion away from drugs

Janet Woodcock may have one of the most historically long and drug-intense tenures in FDA history, but her new role is outside of all things pharma and the once-acting FDA commissioner isn’t looking back.

“No I really don’t look back,” Woodcock told Endpoints News via email on Monday morning. “Yes I will be transitioning. Longer discussion on infrastructure needed.”

Mark Iwicki, Kala Pharmaceuticals CEO (Merus)

Al­con takes a crack at multi­bil­lion-dol­lar dry eye mar­ket, picks up 2 drugs from Langer spin­out

Kala Pharmaceuticals may have never come close to the blockbuster dreams it had for its dry eye disease treatment, but Alcon wants to see if it can take the drug further.

After giving commercialization its best shot over the past few years, Kala decided the marketing game is not for it after all. Instead, it will sell both of its commercial eye drop products — Eysuvis for dry eye disease, and Inveltys for post-operative inflammation and pain following ocular surgery — to Alcon for $60 million in cash, plus an undisclosed amount of milestones.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Co­pay coupons gone wrong, again: Pfiz­er pays al­most $300K to set­tle com­plaints in four states

Pfizer has agreed to pay $290,000 to settle allegations of questionable copay coupon practices in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and Vermont from 2014 to 2018.

While the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, Pfizer has agreed to issue restitution checks to about 5,000 consumers.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the company has “enhanced its co-pay coupons to alleviate the concerns raised by states and agreed to a $30,000 payment to each.”

Delaware court rules against Gilead and Astel­las in years-long patent case

A judge in Delaware has ruled against Astellas Pharma and Gilead in a long-running patent case over Pfizer-onwed Hospira’s generic version of Lexiscan.

The case kicked off in 2018, after Hospira submitted an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) for approval to market a generic version of Gilead’s Lexiscan. The drug is used in myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI), a type of nuclear stress test.

Taye Diggs (courtesy Idorsia)

Idor­sia inks an­oth­er celebri­ty en­dors­er deal with ac­tor and dad Taye Dig­gs as Qu­viviq in­som­nia am­bas­sador

Idorsia’s latest Quviviq insomnia campaign details the relatable dad story of a well-known celebrity — actor and Broadway star Taye Diggs.

Diggs stopped sleeping well after the birth of his son, now more than 10 years ago. Switching mom-and-dad nightly shifts to take care of a baby interrupted his sleep patterns and led to insomnia.

“When you’re lucky enough to be living out your dream and doing what you want, but because of something as simple as a lack of sleep, you’re unable to do that, it felt absolutely — it was treacherous,” he says in an interview-style video on the Quviviq website.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Belén Garijo, Merck KGaA CEO (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for EMD Serono)

Mer­ck KGaA pumps €440M in­to ex­pand­ing and con­struct­ing Irish man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties

The area of Ireland famous for Blarney Castle and its cliffsides along the Atlantic Ocean is seeing Merck KGaA expand its commitment there.

The German drug manufacturer is expanding its membrane and filtration manufacturing capabilities in Ireland. The company will invest approximately €440 million ($470 million) to increase membrane manufacturing capacity in Carrigtwohill, Ireland, and build a new manufacturing facility at Blarney Business Park, in County Cork, Ireland.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

House Dems to Sen­ate lead­er­ship: Quick­ly move a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion bill with drug price ne­go­ti­a­tion re­forms

Twenty House Democrats, including Reps. Katie Porter of California and Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, are calling on Senate leaders to move quickly with a reconciliation bill (meaning they only need a simple majority for passage) with prescription drug pricing reforms, and to include adding new authority for Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

They also called on the Senate to specifically follow suit with the House passage of a $35 per month insulin cap (as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s deadline for a vote on that provision has come and gone), and to cap Medicare Part D costs at $2,000 per year for seniors.

An NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

'Xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion is com­ing': New NE­JM pa­per gives de­tailed look in­to 2 pig-to-hu­man kid­ney trans­plant cas­es

The thymokidney is a curious organ, if you could call it that. It’s a sort of Frankensteinian creation — a system of pig thymus embedded underneath the outer layer of a pig’s kidney, made for human transplantation.

In the first case of pig-to-human xenotransplantation of a kidney into a brain-dead patient, the thymokidney quietly featured front and center.

In that experiment, which took place in September of last year, NYU researchers led by Robert Montgomery sutured a pig thymokidney onto the leg of a brain-dead 66-year-old woman. That case was widely reported on by a horde of major media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC, and an in-depth feature by USA Today.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.