Ama­zon snaps up on­line phar­ma­cy start­up Pill­Pack in lat­est move to dis­rupt health­care

Just one week af­ter pick­ing a CEO to lead its bold joint health­care ven­ture, Ama­zon has an­nounced it’s ac­quir­ing an on­line phar­ma­cy busi­ness called Pill­Pack.

The small New Hamp­shire-based start­up ships pre-pack­aged meds based on pre­scribed pa­tient dosages, pitched as a con­ve­nience to those who take mul­ti­ple drugs per day. The start­up has raised north of $120 mil­lion from back­ers in­clud­ing Tech­Stars and Men­lo Ven­tures, and was val­ued at $361 mil­lion back in 2016.

Al­though fi­nan­cial de­tails of the deal weren’t shared, Pill­Pack was re­port­ed­ly in talks with Wal­mart just months ago for an ac­qui­si­tion price of $1 bil­lion — much high­er than their last re­port­ed val­u­a­tion.

Jeff Wilke

The e-com­merce gi­ant was rather vague on what it plans to do with Pill­Pack. We all know, how­ev­er, that the com­pa­ny is tack­ling the mas­sive goal of fix­ing the bro­ken US health­care sys­tem and low­er­ing the cost of care. Ama­zon an­nounced back in Jan­u­ary that it was team­ing up with Berk­shire Hath­away and JP­Mor­gan to dis­rupt the health­care in­dus­try with a joint ven­ture, and just ap­point­ed At­ul Gawande as its new CEO.

De­tails of the ini­tia­tive re­main slim, but the com­pa­nies said the first plan of ac­tion will be build­ing back­end tech­nol­o­gy need­ed to pro­vide health cov­er­age ser­vices to a large work­force.

The three busi­ness head­lin­ers have at­tract­ed plen­ty of at­ten­tion with their al­liance on tam­ing health­care costs, and a lot of skep­ti­cism about what they plan to do as well as what they can ac­com­plish. That skep­ti­cism was height­ened by a Wall Street Jour­nal piece out­lin­ing Jamie Di­mon’s rapid as­sur­ances to his big health­care clients that he wasn’t set­ting up a ri­val or­ga­ni­za­tion, liken­ing the ven­ture to a group pur­chas­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

It ap­pears that Pill­Pack fits nice­ly in­to Jeff Be­zos’ health­care goals, but it’s pos­si­ble the start­up will re­main sole­ly in Ama­zon’s realm. Pill­Pack holds phar­ma­cy li­cens­es in all 50 states, mean­ing Ama­zon could be­come the de fac­to phar­ma­cy de­liv­ery ser­vice.

“Pill­Pack’s vi­sion­ary team has a com­bi­na­tion of deep phar­ma­cy ex­pe­ri­ence and a fo­cus on tech­nol­o­gy,” said Jeff Wilke, Ama­zon’s World­wide Con­sumer CEO, in a state­ment. “Pill­Pack is mean­ing­ful­ly im­prov­ing its cus­tomers’ lives, and we want to help them con­tin­ue mak­ing it easy for peo­ple to save time, sim­pli­fy their lives, and feel health­i­er. We’re ex­cit­ed to see what we can do to­geth­er on be­half of cus­tomers over time.”

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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Novavax site in Gaithersburg, MD. Novavax

Beef­ing up its new gene ther­a­py unit, Catal­ent inks $18M deal to snap up No­vavax fa­cil­i­ties

Catal­ent’s hunt for rapid growth on the gene ther­a­py front — ce­ment­ed with a $1.2 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Paragon Bio­sciences two months ago — has led them to the vac­cine mak­ers at No­vavax.

With an $18 mil­lion pay­ment, Paragon is tak­ing over two No­vavax sites in Gaithers­burg, MD, in­clud­ing more than 100 of the em­ploy­ees al­ready work­ing there. That’s in ad­di­tion to a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in op­er­at­ing costs, says the com­pa­ny, as No­vavax shifts to re­ly on Paragon for GMP ma­te­ri­als in clin­i­cal tri­als and, even­tu­al­ly, com­mer­cial sup­ply of their prod­ucts.

Zo­genix plans quick re­turn to the FDA with their spurned ap­pli­ca­tion on Dravet syn­drome drug — shares spike

Zo­genix shares are claw­ing back some of the val­ue they lost 2 months ago af­ter the FDA hit the biotech with a refuse-to-file no­tice on their ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py for Dravet syn­drome. 

Com­pa­ny ex­ecs said this morn­ing that they worked out reg­u­la­tors’  is­sues with the ap­pli­ca­tion for Fin­tepla, which cen­tered on a pair of big prob­lems: the ab­sence of non-clin­i­cal stud­ies need­ed to al­low as­sess­ment of the chron­ic ad­min­is­tra­tion of fen­flu­ramine and the in­clu­sion of an in­cor­rect ver­sion of a clin­i­cal dataset. Now they plan to re­sub­mit in Q3 af­ter get­ting off the hook on both scores — which trig­gered a sigh of re­lief among in­vestors.

Turned back at the FDA, Im­muno­Gen is ax­ing 220 staffers, sell­ing pro­grams and hun­ker­ing down for a new PhI­II gam­ble

After being stymied by FDA regulators who were unconvinced by ImmunoGen’s $IMGN desperation shot at an accelerated OK based on a secondary endpoint, the struggling biotech is slashing its workforce, shuttering R&D projects and looking for buyers to pick up some of its experimental cancer assets as it goes back into a new Phase III with the lead drug.

We found out last month that the FDA had batted back their case for an accelerated approval of their antibody-drug conjugate mirvetuximab soravtansine, which had earlier failed a Phase III study for ovarian cancer. Now the other shoe is dropping.

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Bridge­Bio takes crown for biggest biotech IPO of 2019, as fel­low uni­corn Adap­tive rais­es of­fer­ing size and price

Bridge­Bio Phar­ma and Adap­tive Biotech­nolo­gies have not just up­sized IPO of­fer­ings — the pair of uni­corns have al­so raised their of­fer­ing prices above the range, haul­ing in a com­bined $648.5 mil­lion.

Neil Ku­mar’s Bridge­Bio Phar­ma, found­ed in 2015, has a sta­ble of com­pa­nies fo­cused on dis­eases that are dri­ven by de­fects in a sin­gle gene — en­com­pass­ing der­ma­tol­ogy, car­di­ol­o­gy, neu­rol­o­gy, en­docrinol­o­gy, re­nal dis­ease, and oph­thal­mol­o­gy — and can­cers with clear ge­net­ic dri­vers. The start­up mill birthed a pletho­ra of firms such as Ei­dos, Navire, QED Ther­a­peu­tics and Pelle­Pharm, which func­tion as its sub­sidiaries.

As­traZeneca chal­lenges Roche on front­line SCLC af­ter seiz­ing an in­ter­im win — and Mer­ck may not be far be­hind

The crowded playing field in the PD-1/L1 marketing game is about to get a little more complex.

This morning AstraZeneca reported that its CASPIAN study delivered a hit in an interim readout for their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with etoposide and platinum-based chemotherapy options for frontline cases of small cell lung cancer, a tough target which has already knocked back Bristol-Myers’ shot in second-line cases. The positive data  — which we won’t see before they roll it out at an upcoming scientific conference — give AstraZeneca excellent odds of a quick vault to challenging Roche’s Tecentriq-chemo combo, approved 3 months ago for frontline SCLC in a landmark advance.

“This is the first trial offering the flexibility of combining immunotherapy with different platinum-based regimens in small cell lung cancer, expanding treatment options,” noted AstraZeneca cancer R&D chief José Baselga in a statement.

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Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three major buyouts announced: Takeda/Shire; Bristol-Myers/Celgene and now AbbVie/Allergan. And with this latest deal it’s increasingly clear that the sharp fall from grace suffered by high-profile players which have seen their share prices blasted has created an opening for the growth players in big pharma to up their game — in sharp contrast to the popular bolt-on deals that have been driving the growth strategy at Novartis, Merck, Roche and others.

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

Top an­a­lyst finds a sil­ver lin­ing in Ab­b­Vie’s $63B Al­ler­gan buy­out — but there’s a catch

After getting beat up on all sides from market observers who don’t much care for the latest mega-deal to arrive in biopharma, at least one prominent analyst now is starting to like what he sees in the numbers for AbbVie/Allergan.

But it’s going to take some encouragement if AbbVie execs want it to last.

AbbVie’s market cap declined $20 billion on Tuesday as the stock took a 17% hit during the day. And SVB Leerink’s Geoffrey Porges can see a distinct outline of an upside after reviewing the fundamentals of the deal.

Key to this bullish position is Porges’ belief that AbbVie can slice more than $2 billion in “synergies” post-merger while crediting the pharma giant with an industry-leading commercial team that can handle these new products — primarily Botox and medical aesthetics — even better than Allergan.

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