Bank­rupt and weary, di­et pill mak­er Orex­i­gen to sell for $75M to Nal­pro­pi­on

Di­et pill mak­er Orex­i­gen Ther­a­peu­tics can fi­nal­ly turn out the lights. Af­ter a years-long bat­tle to bring its fi­nances in­to the black, the com­pa­ny put its as­sets for sale, filed for bank­rupt­cy, and fi­nal­ly at­tract­ed a buy­er.

Michael Narachi

The San Diego-based com­pa­ny has inked a deal to be pur­chased for $75 mil­lion by Nal­pro­pi­on Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, a new­ly-cre­at­ed com­pa­ny cap­i­tal­ized by an in­vestor group that in­cludes Pernix Ther­a­peu­tics, a small-cap pub­lic com­pa­ny in New Jer­sey.

Nal­pro­pri­on is buy­ing all of Orex­i­gen’s as­sets, in­clud­ing world­wide rights to the weight­loss drug Con­trave (mar­ket­ed un­der the brand name Mysim­ba in the EU).

The past few years have been tu­mul­tuous for Orex­i­gen, with the com­pa­ny’s stock plum­met­ing 99% since its height in 2015. De­spite a best-sell­ing weight­loss drug on the mar­ket among its brand­ed com­peti­tors, the com­pa­ny has faced hur­dle af­ter hur­dle, in­clud­ing a le­gal fight to de­fend its patent rights and a lack­lus­ter mar­ket for di­et pills in gen­er­al.

The com­pa­ny’s sole rev­enue dri­ver was Con­trave, which came on the mar­ket in 2014. It quick­ly snagged the biggest share of sales among brand name di­et pills, cap­tur­ing 52% and sur­pass­ing Qsymia, Sax­en­da, and Belviq. The com­pa­ny was inch­ing — al­beit very slow­ly — to­ward prof­itabil­i­ty for the past 15 years. It wasn’t enough.

Back in 2017, CEO Michael Narachi told me he hoped a merg­er or sale would get the com­pa­ny back on track with the abil­i­ty to share costs with an­oth­er or­ga­ni­za­tion. Then last month Orex­i­gen an­nounced a Chap­ter 11 bank­rupt­cy in a last-ditch ef­fort to set­tle its ac­counts (and like­ly at­tract a buy­er).

The deal with Nal­pro­pi­on is sub­ject to high­er and bet­ter of­fers, Orex­i­gen not­ed in a press re­lease, and the of­fer win­dow will close June 21.

Orex­i­gen sent this state­ment in re­sponse to my re­quest for more in­for­ma­tion about the San Diego of­fice, and the fu­ture of the em­ploy­ees work­ing there.

“The em­ploy­ees at Orex­i­gen are an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the val­ue of the com­pa­ny.  Through our in­ter­ac­tions with this po­ten­tial buy­er, we be­lieve they al­so rec­og­nize the con­tri­bu­tions made by our em­ploy­ees.  We plan to con­tin­ue to sup­port our team dur­ing this process.”

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.

No­vo CEO Lars Fruer­gaard Jør­gensen on R&D risk, the deal strat­e­gy and tar­gets for gen­der di­ver­si­ty

 

I kicked off our European R&D summit last week with a conversation involving Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen. Novo is aiming to launch a new era of obesity management with a new approval for semaglutide. And Jørgensen had a lot to say about what comes next in R&D, how they manage risk and gender diversity targets at the trendsetting European pharma giant.

John Carroll: I’m here with Lars Jørgensen, the CEO of Novo Nordisk. Lars, it’s been a really interesting year so far with Novo Nordisk, right? You’ve projected a new era of growing sales. You’ve been able to expand on the GLP-1 franchise that was already well established in diabetes now going into obesity. And I think a tremendous number of people are really interested in how that’s working out. You have forecast a growing amount of sales. We don’t know specifically how that might play out. I know a lot of the analysts have different ideas, how those numbers might play out, but that we are in fact embarking on a new era for Novo Nordisk in terms of what the company’s capable of doing and what it’s able to do and what it wants to do. And I wanted to start off by asking you about obesity in particular. Semaglutide has been approved in the United States for obesity. It’s an area of R&D that’s been very troubled for decades. There have been weight loss drugs that have come along. They’ve attracted a lot of attention, but they haven’t actually ever gained traction in the market. My first question is what’s different this time about obesity? What is different about this drug and why do you expect it to work now whereas previous drugs haven’t?

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Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

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Hedge fund jumps in with Avoro ac­tivists in an at­tempt to de­rail Mer­ck­'s $11B Ac­celeron buy­out

Avoro Capital, which made its bones blowing up the Seagen-Immunomedics deal and then selling the smaller biotech for $21 billion, is getting an assist in its quest to derail Merck’s $11 billion buyout of Acceleron $XLRN.

Wednesday morning one of Acceleron’s biggest investors joined the opposition. Darwin Global Management, a hedge fund which owns about 4% of Acceleron, blasted the Merck deal, saying the Big Pharma is getting the company for billions less than what it’s worth. Earlier, Holocene Advisers, reportedly a top-20 investor in Acceleron, said it would not tender its stock after criticizing the $180-per-share deal.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (via Getty images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA slaps As­traZeneca's MCL-1 can­cer drug with a hold af­ter safe­ty is­sue — 2 years af­ter Am­gen axed a trou­bled ri­val

There are new questions being posed about a class of cancer drugs in the wake of the second FDA-enforced clinical hold in the field.

Two years after the FDA hit Amgen with a clinical hold on its MCL-1 inhibitor AMG 397 following signs of cardiac toxicity, AstraZeneca says that regulators hit them with a hold on their rival therapy of the same class.

The pharma giant noted on clinicaltrials.gov that its Phase I/II study for the MCL-1 drug AZD5991 “has been put on hold to allow further evaluation of safety related information.”

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