An­a­lysts’ top 10 biotech takeover tar­gets are con­cen­trat­ed in two key ar­eas

CEO Schwan of Swiss drug­mak­er Roche ad­dress­es the an­nu­al news con­fer­ence in Basel Get­ty


While Cred­it Su­isse was siz­ing up the amount of over­seas mon­ey that will soon be avail­able to the top buy­ers in bio­phar­ma, their an­a­lysts put to­geth­er a list of top takeover tar­gets, ranked by mar­ket cap. I’m pulling out the top 10 here to go along­side the main sto­ry — for End­points News In­sid­ers — on who has $171 bil­lion to play with, along with sug­ges­tions on how they can spend that mon­ey.

A few key words leap out at us in this as­sess­ment. One is on­col­o­gy, which is grab­bing the li­on’s share of the mon­ey in the deal­mak­ing world. Two more: Rare dis­eases. Reg­u­la­tors are quick to hur­ry these new drugs along, with de­vel­op­ers us­ing small stud­ies to of­fer proof of ef­fi­ca­cy and safe­ty. And the price tags can be ex­treme. That’s a win­ning com­bi­na­tion for many of the buy­ers out there.

What’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly win­ning are the mar­ket caps you see be­low. These com­pa­nies may be at­trac­tive, but on­ly at the right price. I go through an ex­er­cise some­times where I imag­ine what Roche CEO Sev­erin Schwan would say in pri­vate about some of these num­bers.

Now add a takeover pre­mi­um.

I’m us­ing the Cred­it Su­isse num­bers for the re­port, but they’ve shift­ed a lit­tle.


1 Ver­tex $VRTX
Mar­ket cap: $37 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Cys­tic fi­bro­sis and rare dis­eases

The scoop: Ver­tex ex­ecs have been hav­ing a hey­day with new, promis­ing da­ta for their CF com­bos. The com­pa­ny pulled off a re­mark­able feat in switch­ing from hep C — now dom­i­nat­ed by Gilead — to CF. In­vestors have bid up their shares, in­trigued by the up­side of a buy­out deal for a com­pa­ny that ap­pears to some to be a tempt­ing tar­get, even at this gar­gan­tu­an val­u­a­tion. The math, though, will not be easy.


2 Alex­ion $ALXN
Mar­ket cap: $24 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Hema­tol­ogy/rare dis­eases

Lud­wig Hantson

The scoop: The big as­set here is Soliris, of course, which has a num­ber of ri­vals in the clin­ic. But Alex­ion has been turn­ing heads with ‘1210, its next-gen suc­ces­sor for PNH. And even though the rest of the pipeline has lit­tle to of­fer, with Lud­wig Hantson look­ing for new as­sets as he moves the com­pa­ny to Boston, any buy­er would have lit­tle trou­ble in swal­low­ing the op­er­a­tions. Big ques­tion re­mains the same as Ver­tex. How do you make these num­bers work?


3 In­cyte $IN­CY
Mar­ket cap: $21 bil­lion
Fo­cus: On­col­o­gy and hema­tol­ogy

The scoop: This one seems more in the realm of the pos­si­ble. The biotech has a mar­ket­ed prod­uct and a lead as­set in IDO1 that’s grabbed a lot of at­ten­tion. Pricey? And how. But this is one way to make a quick splash.


4 Bio­Marin $BM­RN
Mar­ket cap: $15 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Rare dis­eases

The scoop: Bio­Marin has been on the top 10 list of buy­out tar­gets for so long, it seems to have brand­ed it­self as an at­trac­tive ac­qui­si­tion. But through the years, it’s been all smoke and no fire. The com­pa­ny is a leader in rare dis­eases, which quite a few big buy­ers would ben­e­fit from.


5 Alk­er­mes $ALKS
Mar­ket cap: $7.9 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Schiz­o­phre­nia, de­pres­sion

The scoop: Alk­er­mes has had its ups and downs in the last cou­ple of years. which is one rea­son why the stock has nev­er ful­ly re­turned to peak form af­ter the drub­bing it took in ear­ly 2016 on the first round of bad news for ‘5461 in de­pres­sion. The biotech has since made a re­mark­able turn­around there, set­ting up high ex­pec­ta­tions that keep Alk­er­mes in the top 10. The com­pa­ny has some mar­ket­ed prod­ucts and a late-stage pipeline for po­ten­tial buy­ers to in­spect. But the stock has been much low­er with­out trig­ger­ing a bid. What’s the big mo­ti­va­tion to move now?


6 Tesaro $TSRO
Mar­ket cap: $4.5 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Can­cer

The scoop: Tesaro has been on the top buy­out list ever since Ze­ju­la was ap­proved. But no one has come up with the cash so far, and every­one has had a chance to run the num­bers. A leader in the PARP field, the biotech would seem to have the per­fect pro­file for an ac­qui­si­tion by any­one in the mar­ket look­ing to pay a pre­mi­um for a can­cer drug. But the top team has yet to make a deal work, de­spite all the buzz.


7 Gala­pa­gos $GLPG
Mar­ket cap: $3.9 bil­lion
Fo­cus: In­flam­ma­tion and im­munol­o­gy

The scoop: Gala­pa­gos finds it­self in a late-stage race with fil­go­tinib on rheuma­toid arthri­tis and Crohn’s, which earned a $725 mil­lion up­front for a part­ner­ship with Gilead. That’s helped keep this biotech in the big leagues among buy­out tar­gets, though it’s a wild­ly com­pet­i­tive field with lots of out­stand­ing play­ers. In­vestors seem to ei­ther love this com­pa­ny or hate it. We’ll find out soon enough who was right. But no one is ig­nor­ing Gala­pa­gos.


8 Puma $PBYI
Mar­ket cap: $3.8 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Can­cer

The scoop: Talk about love and hate. The shorts loved to hate on Puma, cit­ing some is­sues ner­a­tinib had with di­ar­rhea. The FDA wasn’t too con­cerned, though, and the ex­perts on the agency pan­el bare­ly men­tioned an is­sue that they felt could be suc­cess­ful­ly man­aged while treat­ing pa­tients. Puma now has a prod­uct on the mar­ket, and like Tesaro looks like the kind of bolt-on that revs up a lot of the big buy­ers in the on­col­o­gy field.


9 Sarep­ta $SRPT
Mar­ket cap: $3.7 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Duchenne mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy, rare dis­eases

The scoop: What­ev­er you think about Sarep­ta, and every­one thinks some­thing, they have a DMD drug on the mar­ket and it isn’t go­ing any­where. Sure, there was plen­ty of con­tro­ver­sy about the FDA ap­proval on sus­pi­cious da­ta from on­ly 12 pa­tients, but the agency shows no sign of back­ing away now. The biotech, mean­while, has been mak­ing progress with the pipeline, de­ter­mined not to lose its edge as a long list of ri­vals take a shot at DMD. Now that the con­tro­ver­sy has died down, will a big buy­er step in, or do they want to avoid the headache?


10 Por­to­la $PT­LA
Mar­ket cap: $3.2 bil­lion
Fo­cus: Car­dio­vas­cu­lar

The scoop: Last year the com­pa­ny re­port­ed that its an­ti­co­ag­u­lant has just bare­ly failed a key end­point in ex­am­in­ing the drug’s ef­fi­ca­cy (p=0.054) among a key co­hort of pa­tients with el­e­vat­ed D-dimer lev­els. The com­pa­ny went on, though, to do an ex­plorato­ry analy­sis of the re­sults, claim­ing a win in re­duc­ing the risk of ve­nous throm­boem­bolism — or sim­ply, blood clots — for their drug com­pared to enoxa­parin. Reg­u­la­tors agreed, ap­prov­ing the ther­a­py last sum­mer for acute­ly ill pa­tients. Now an­oth­er drug could be poised for an OK, leav­ing Por­to­la in the top 10. Car­dio is one of the tough­est fields in R&D, and some big play­ers may find it eas­i­er to mar­ket these drugs more ef­fi­cient­ly.

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Pfiz­er's big block­buster Xel­janz flunks its post-mar­ket­ing safe­ty study, re­new­ing harsh ques­tions for JAK class

When the FDA approved Pfizer’s JAK inhibitor Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, they slapped on a black box warning for a laundry list of adverse events and required the New York drugmaker to run a long-term safety study.

That study has since become a consistent headache for Pfizer and their blockbuster molecule. Last year, Pfizer dropped the entire high dose cohort after an independent monitoring board found more patients died in that group than in the low dose arm or a control arm of patients who received one of two TNF inhibitors, Enbrel or Humira.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

After coming under fire for manufacturing delays last week, AstraZeneca’s feud with the European Union has spilled into the open.

The bloc accused the pharma giant on Wednesday of pulling out of a meeting to discuss cuts to its vaccine supplies, the AP reported. AstraZeneca denied the reports, saying it still planned on attending the discussion.

Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Pascal Soriot, AP

As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot sev­ers an un­usu­al board con­nec­tion, steer­ing clear of con­flicts while re­tain­ing im­por­tant al­liances

CSL Behring chief Paul Perreault scored an unusual coup last summer when he added AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot to the board, via Zoom. It’s rare, to say the least, to see a Big Pharma CEO take any board post in an industry where interests can simultaneously connect and collide on multiple levels of operations.

The tie set the stage for an important manufacturing connection. The Australian pharma giant agreed to supply the country with 10s of millions of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, once it passes regulatory muster.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Jim Tananbaum, Foresite

Fore­site re­turns to the SPAC well, as in­vestors won­der how long the run can last

Six months after launching his first biotech SPAC, Foresite’s Jim Tananbaum has started a second. On Tuesday, the longtime life science investor filed to raise $100 million by selling 10 million shares of the blank check company FS development II.

It’s a quick return to Wall Street for Foresite, although other firms have moved quicker. Perceptive Advisors raised a $130 million SPAC in June and were back before the end of July to raise another $125 million. By that point, the firm was evidently nearing a deal for the June SPAC, which would announce a half-billion-dollar merger with Cerevel Therapeutics on July 30.

Adeno-associated virus-1 illustration; the use of AAVs resurrected the gene therapy field, but companies are now testing the limits of a 20-year-old technology (File photo, Shutterstock)

Af­ter 3 deaths rock the field, gene ther­a­py re­searchers con­tem­plate AAV's fu­ture

Nicole Paulk was scrolling through her phone in bed early one morning in June when an email from a colleague jolted her awake. It was an article: Two patients in an Audentes gene therapy trial had died, grinding the study to a halt.

Paulk, who runs a gene therapy lab at the University of California, San Francisco, had planned to spend the day listening to talks at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, which was taking place that week. Instead, she skipped the conference, canceled every work call on her calendar and began phoning colleagues across academia and industry, trying to figure out what happened and why. All the while, a single name hung in the back of her head.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Mer­ck scraps Covid-19 vac­cine pro­grams af­ter they fail to mea­sure up on ef­fi­ca­cy in an­oth­er ma­jor set­back in the glob­al fight

After turning up late to the vaccine development game in the global fight against Covid-19, Merck is now making a quick exit.

The pharma giant is reporting this morning that it’s decided to drop development of 2 vaccines — V590 and V591 — after taking a look at Phase I data that simply don’t measure up to either the natural immune response seen in people exposed to the virus or the vaccines already on or near the market.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Anthony Fauci, NIAID director (AP Images)

As new Covid-19 task force gets un­der­way, threat looms of vac­cine, mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body-re­sis­tant vari­ants

Hours before President Biden’s Covid-19 team gave their first virtual press conference, the famed AIDS researcher David Ho delivered concerning news in a new pre-print: SARS-CoV-2 B.1.351, the variant that emerged in South Africa, is “markedly more resistant” to antibodies from convalescent plasma and vaccinated individuals.

The news for several monoclonal antibodies, including Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab, was even worse: Their ability to neutralize was “completely or markedly abolished,” Ho wrote. Lilly’s antibody cocktail, which was just shown to dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalizations or death, also became far less potent.

Jackie Fouse, Agios CEO

Agios scores its sec­ond pos­i­tive round of da­ta for its lead pipeline drug — but that won't an­swer the stub­born ques­tions that sur­round this pro­gram

Agios $AGIO bet the farm on its PKR activator drug mitapivat when it recently decided to sell off its pioneering cancer drug Tibsovo and go back to being a development-stage company — for what CEO Jackie Fouse hoped would be a short stretch before they got back into commercialization.

On Tuesday evening, the bellwether biotech flashed more positive topline data — this time from a small group of patients in a single-arm study. And the executive team plans to package this with its earlier positive results from a controlled study to make its case for a quick OK.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.