An­oth­er phar­ma gi­ant makes a leap in­to the glob­al med­ical mar­i­jua­na busi­ness

Big Phar­ma just struck its sec­ond dis­tri­b­u­tion deal with the grow­ing glob­al med­ical mar­i­jua­na busi­ness.

Nine months af­ter No­var­tis’ San­doz group al­lied it­self with Tilray, the med­ical cannabis grow­er Can­ndoc says it will use Te­va’s SLE group to dis­trib­ute its med­ical cannabis prod­ucts in Is­rael, and then spear­head the glob­al dis­tri­b­u­tion of its prod­ucts to mar­kets around the world where med­ical cannabis is le­gal.

“Through its SLE part­ner­ship, Can­ndoc has aligned it­self with one of the most promi­nent phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies in the world, for the dis­tri­b­u­tion of cannabis-based med­ical treat­ments to coun­tries that rec­og­nize the val­ue of these med­i­cines for peo­ple in need,” not­ed com­pa­ny chair­man Ehud Barak in a state­ment.

Barak is the for­mer prime min­is­ter of Is­rael, un­der­scor­ing just how deeply en­trenched the com­pa­ny is with the coun­try’s busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment. Back in April, Haaretz re­port­ed that Can­ndoc was do­ing a road­show for an IPO on Nas­daq and talk­ing up its shot at a uni­corn val­u­a­tion of around $5 bil­lion.

But the bloom has come off the mar­ket rose, with share prices at the top play­ers like Tilray wilt­ing as the overnight mar­ket bub­ble that grew up around mar­i­jua­na quick­ly de­flat­ed. Share prices may be down, but Te­va and No­var­tis clear­ly see some longterm po­ten­tial in med­ical mar­i­jua­na. And more of their col­leagues in the busi­ness may well fol­low.

Can­ndoc is a sub­sidiary of In­ter­Cure and has cul­ti­va­tion sites in Is­rael as well as JVs un­der­way for cul­ti­va­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion in the EU and Cana­da. In­ter­Cure al­so has mi­nor­i­ty stakes in 2 biotech com­pa­nies, Re­gen­era and Nov­el­lus.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line re­thinks strat­e­gy for Covid-19 an­ti­body — not the Vir ones — af­ter tri­al flop. Is there hope in high-risk pa­tients?

In the search for a better Covid-19 therapeutic, GlaxoSmithKline and Vir have partnered up on two antibodies they hope have a chance. GSK is also testing its own in-house antibody, and early results may have shut the door on its widespread use.

A combination of GSK’s monoclonal antibody otilimab plus standard of care couldn’t best standard of care alone in preventing death and respiratory failure in hospitalized Covid-19 patients after 28 days, according to data from the Phase IIa OSCAR study unveiled Thursday.

Mod­er­na's Stéphane Ban­cel plans to dou­ble down on vac­cine pro­duc­tion, new vari­ants as mR­NA rules in pan­dem­ic fight

Stéphane Bancel thought he’d be sleeping more by now.

The 48-year-old Moderna CEO figured that by 2021 he’d have his vaccine through the clinic, authorized, and in mass production — that the hard part would be over. Instead, he’s still working Saturdays and Sundays, talking with his lab and manufacturing teams and fielding calls with two to three world leaders a day to answer their concerns about supply and emerging new variants.

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S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.