Anato­my of a $9B buy­out: Cel­gene’s quick turn from Juno’s close col­lab­o­ra­tor to new own­er

Hans Bish­op

It turns out that Au­gust 28 was a red let­ter day for more than Kite or Gilead $GILD, which grabbed the in­dus­try’s at­ten­tion with their an­nounced buy­out deal for $12 bil­lion in cash. The same day as the head­lines hit, Juno CEO Hans Bish­op and CFO Steven Harr had a lit­tle chat about their up­com­ing meet­ing with some of the lead­ers at Cel­gene $CELG, a close part­ner that owned right at 10% of its shares.

Maybe some strate­gic op­tions would be dis­cussed, they thought. Maybe Mor­gan Stan­ley ought to get roped in — just in case.

Mark Alles

A lit­tle more than three weeks lat­er, Juno ex­plained in an SEC fil­ing, Bish­op and Harr got to­geth­er with Cel­gene CEO Mark Alles and chief deal­mak­er George Golumbes­ki. Maybe, sug­gest­ed Alles and Golumbes­ki, they might want to talk about a buy­out.

No num­bers were dis­cussed.

So Bish­op took that to the board a few days lat­er. But they had more to dis­cuss than Cel­gene’s over­ture. Dur­ing Sep­tem­ber, they had al­so been con­tact­ed by an­oth­er com­pa­ny that was in­ter­est­ed in part­ner­ing with Juno on its new­ly emerg­ing BC­MA pro­gram, which Cel­gene — al­ready part­nered with blue­bird on BC­MA — hadn’t tied up.

Par­ty A, it turned out, was al­so ready to ex­pand its dis­cus­sions from a part­ner­ship in­to a broad­er strate­gic trans­ac­tion. And on Oc­to­ber 5, Juno had the mak­ings of an auc­tion, even though its ex­ecs would lat­er say specif­i­cal­ly that no auc­tion was un­der­way.

Steven Harr

A month lat­er, Par­ty A came by for a tour and a chat about its in­ter­est in BC­MA, again sug­gest­ing a will­ing­ness to en­ter in­to M&A talks. And a few days af­ter that, their strate­gic com­mit­tee asked Cel­gene and Par­ty A to get down to brass tacks, and start talk­ing about what kind of val­u­a­tion they were giv­ing Juno.

Alles got the bid­ding start­ed on No­vem­ber 16, float­ing an $80 per share of­fer­ing but sig­nal­ing they could go high­er. The Juno board agreed that $80 wasn’t enough to war­rant the launch of a due dili­gence ef­fort.

Alles balked at that, not want­i­ng to go past $80 ahead of due dili­gence, and he and Bish­op agreed to get to­geth­er at ASH for a chat.

On No­vem­ber 22, Par­ty A was still in­ter­est­ed, but hadn’t men­tioned a fig­ure. I’ll take this next part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions straight from the SEC docs:

Mr. Bish­op re­spond­ed that Juno was not con­duct­ing an auc­tion process, but that an­oth­er par­ty was in­ter­est­ed in po­ten­tial­ly pur­su­ing an ac­qui­si­tion trans­ac­tion for Juno.

On De­cem­ber 5 Par­ty A tried to turn the con­ver­sa­tion back to a BC­MA part­ner­ship, but Harr made it clear that that wasn’t go­ing any­where. Par­ty A said it was still in­ter­est­ed in a broad­er trans­ac­tion.

George Golumbes­ki

Then, on a snowy win­ter day on De­cem­ber 10, Alles and Golumbes­ki met with Bish­op and Harr in At­lanta dur­ing ASH. A board meet­ing was com­ing up at Cel­gene, Alles told them, where they would be dis­cussing CAR-T. What kind of num­ber did they have in mind to get buy­out talks se­ri­ous­ly on track and due dili­gence un­der­way?

The an­swer, it turned out a few days lat­er, was $86 a share. That was good enough to get Cel­gene to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble for a close­up of Juno’s in­side work­ings, and af­ter telling Par­ty A it was time to make an of­fer if it was in­ter­est­ed, Par­ty A took a hike on De­cem­ber 21. From the fil­ing:

On De­cem­ber 21, 2017, Par­ty A in­formed Dr. Harr that it was not in­ter­est­ed in a BC­MA part­ner­ship or ac­qui­si­tion of Juno at this time. Dr. Harr in­formed the Strate­gic Com­mit­tee of this out­come on the same day.

Per­haps not co­in­ci­den­tal­ly, that was the same day J&J an­nounced a $350 mil­lion cash deal to part­ner with Chi­na’s Leg­end on their BC­MA CAR-T pro­gram.

That left Cel­gene alone at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble, pur­su­ing talks where Golumbes­ki had iden­ti­fied 4 key ar­eas of in­ter­est: “1) Juno’s BC­MA pro­gram; (2) JCAR017 (now al­so known as liso-cel); (3) Juno’s pro­ject­ed cost of goods; and (4) the pro­ject­ed val­ue of Juno’s in­fringe­ment law­suit against Kite Phar­ma.”

The talks went on in­to ear­ly Jan­u­ary, with Bish­op get­ting a $20 mil­lion com­mit­ment from Cel­gene for a bonus pool for Juno staffers which he would per­son­al­ly di­rect.

On Jan­u­ary 16, the Wall Street Jour­nal nailed the talks, and Juno’s shares shot up. But then Cel­gene tried to in­tro­duce the idea of a buy­out price tied to con­tin­gent val­ue rights for a mile­stones.

Juno was not in­ter­est­ed in a CVR deal.

Three days lat­er, Juno sug­gest­ed that Cel­gene might want to of­fer $88 a share. Alles came back with $87. And with no oth­er po­ten­tial buy­er mak­ing a bid, that’s what the deal closed at.

A New Fron­tier: The In­ner Ear

What happens when a successful biotech venture capitalist is unexpectedly diagnosed with a chronic, life-disrupting vertigo disorder? Innovation in neurotology.

That venture capitalist was Jay Lichter, Ph.D., and after learning there was no FDA-approved drug treatment for his condition, Ménière’s disease, he decided to create a company to bring drug development to neurotology. Otonomy was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to finding new drug treatments for the hugely underserved community living with balance and hearing disorders. Helping patients like Jay has been the driving force behind Otonomy, a company heading into a transformative 2020 with three clinical trial readouts: Phase 3 in Ménière’s disease, Phase 2 in tinnitus, and Phase 1/2 in hearing loss. These catalysts, together with others in the field, highlight the emerging opportunity in neurotology.
Otonomy is leading the way in neurotology
Neurotology, or the treatment of inner ear neurological disorders, is a large and untapped market for drug developers: one in eight individuals in the U.S. have moderate-to-severe hearing loss, tinnitus or vertigo disorders such as Ménière’s disease.1 With no FDA-approved drug treatments available for these conditions, the burden on patients—including social anxiety, lower quality of life, reduced work productivity, and higher rates of depression—can be significant.2, 3, 4

Af­ter 4 years of furor, the FTC and New York state ac­cuse Mar­tin Shkre­li of run­ning a drug mo­nop­oly. And this time they plan to squash it

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli was jailed, publicly pilloried and forced to confront some lawmakers in Washington riled by his move to take an old generic and move the price from $17.50 per pill to $750. But through 4 years of controversy and public revulsion, his company never backed away from the price — left uncontrolled by a laissez faire federal policy on a drug’s cost.

Now the FTC and the state of New York plan to pry his fingers off the drug once and for all and open it up to some cheap competition.

Patrik Jonsson, the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines

Who knew? Der­mi­ra’s board kept watch as its stock price tracked Eli Lil­ly’s se­cret bid­ding on a $1.1B buy­out

In just 8 days, from December 6 to December 14, the stock jumped from $7.88 to $12.70 — just under the initial $13 bid. There was no hard news about the company that would explain a rise like that tracking closely to the bid offer, raising the obvious question of whether insider info has leaked out to traders.

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Short at­tack­er Sahm Ad­ran­gi draws crosshairs over a fa­vorite of Sanofi’s new CEO — with PhII da­ta loom­ing

Sahm Adrang Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale chief Sahm Adrangi took a lengthy break from his series of biotech short attacks after his chief analyst in the field pulled up stakes and went solo. But he’s making a return to drug development this morning, drawing crosshairs over a company that’s one of new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson’s favorite collaborators.

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UP­DAT­ED: Ac­celeron of­fers thumbs up on a PhII suc­cess for would-be block­buster drug — and shares rock­et up

There’s no public data yet, but Acceleron $XLRN says that its first major trial readout of 2020 is a success.

In a Phase II study of 106 patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), Acceleron’s experimental drug sotatercept hit its primary endpoint: a significant reduction in pulmonary vascular resistance. The drug also met three different secondary endpoints, including the 6-minute walking test.

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Civi­ca and Blue Cross Blue Shield launch new ven­ture to low­er gener­ic prices

Five years after Martin Shkreli put a smug face to the volatile prices companies can charge even for generic drugs, payers and governments are coming up with outside-the-box solutions.

The latest fix is a new venture from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, 18 of its members and Civica, the generics company founded in 2018 by hospitals fed up with high prices for drugs that had long-since lost patent protection. While Civica focused on drugs that hospitals purchased, the new company will aim to lower prices on drugs that, like Shkreli’s Daraprim, are purchased by individuals.

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Merck Invests in State-Of-The-Art Biotech Development Facility in Switzerland

Mer­ck KGaA match­es lofty R&D goals with €250M in­vest­ment in­to a new clin­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Switzer­land

As Merck KGaA strives to prove itself as a capable biopharma R&D player, it has begun construction on a €250 million facility dedicated to developing and manufacturing drugs for use in clinical trials.

The German drugmaker chose a location at Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where it already has a commercial manufacturing site, in order to “bridge together research and manufacturing.”

“This investment in the Merck Biotech Development Center reflects our commitment to speed up the availability of new medicines for patients in need, and confirms the importance of Switzerland as our prime hub for the manufacturing of biotech medicines,” CEO Stefan Oschmann said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a statement.

Breast can­cer ap­proval in tow, As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi armed an­ti­body scores in key gas­tric can­cer study

AstraZeneca kicked off Monday with a flurry of good news. Apart from unveiling positive results on its stroke trial testing its clot-fighter Brilinta, and welcoming its experimental IL-23 inhibitor brazikumab back from Allergan — the British drugmaker also disclosed some upbeat gastric cancer data on its HER2-positive oncology therapy it is collaborating on with Daiichi Sankyo.

Buoyed by the performance of its oncology drugs, last March AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot bet big to partner with Daiichi on the cancer drug, with $1.35 billion upfront in a deal worth up to roughly $7 billion. Roughly 8 months later, as 2019 drew to a close, the FDA swiftly approved the drug — trastuzumab deruxtecan — for use in breast cancer, months ahead of the expected decision date.

Sor­ren­to shrugs off an anony­mous pri­vate eq­ui­ty group’s $1B of­fer to buy the com­pa­ny

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics isn’t going the M&A route — at least not today.

The biotech caused quite a stir when it put out word a few weeks ago that an unidentified private equity group was bidding a billion dollars-plus for the company. The news drove a quick spike in the company’s share price as investors hooked up for the ride — that didn’t happen.

The update sparked a 5% drop in the share price $SRNE ahead of the bell. It’s now trading just above $4, without any evidence that the $7 price looked like it was firm.