Biogen, UCB step up to kick the tires at Acorda as buyout buzz grows — report

Ron Cohen

Acorda $ACOR CEO Ron Cohen appears to have stirred up some high-level interest in a potential auction.

Rumors have been swirling that days after the biotech reportedly brought in advisers to help prep for a sale, some bidders have begun to step up to the table. And early Friday Bloomberg reported that Biogen and UCB have stepped up to kick the tires, along with possible interest from Asian drugmakers.

The one key asset on the table right now is the levodopa drug CVT-301, which is back in front of regulators after the FDA kicked it back with a refuse-to-file letter.

Acorda has seen its share price swell back up as talk of a buyout began to heat up 12 days ago. Its market cap is at $1.16 billion, and the speculation now centers on what kind of a premium the struggling biotech can fetch for its one key asset.

Buyout buzz, though, is just what the market loves the most. And this morning Acorda’s shares are up 17% in pre-market trading.

At JPMorgan, Cohen offered a best case scenario for their late-stage drug, saying they had boosted the market potential for the therapy to $800 million. Touting prospective numbers like that during the annual confab — a parade of bullish talk — underscored the auction process that was underway.

The setback on CVT-301, though, highlighted the perilous position that Acorda and Cohen’s team find themselves in after a judge invalidated key patents for Ampyra last year. The biotech now expects to start to lose the franchise to generic competition mid-year and was anxiously hustling ahead with CVT-301 to replace Amypra, which has provided the bulk of the company’s operating cash.

Just two months ago Acorda had to scrap its late-stage drug tozadenant after 5 patients died in a clinical trial. Acorda paid $363 million in cash to acquire a Finnish company so it could add the drug to the pipeline.

Even before the litany of pipeline disasters occurred, the crisis spawned by the Ampyra patent case inspired Acorda’s biggest shareholder to push for a sale, which Cohen and his team initially resisted by adopting a poisoned pill defense.

Any sale of Acorda now would amount to a simple bolt-on for any acquirer. Cohen made it clear that he was getting rid of much of the rest of the pipeline when he announced cutbacks last year. And the remaining staff would face deep, deep cuts by any acquirer looking to justify the price.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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