Brent Saun­ders has a mes­sage for Al­ler­gan in­vestors to­day: He feels your pain

The past three years have been a bumpy down­hill ride for share­hold­ers at Al­ler­gan $AGN. And dur­ing his Q1 call to­day he want­ed to un­der­score that he knows just how much that hurts. He and the board have been talk­ing with dozens of sig­nif­i­cant in­vestors, in­clud­ing Ap­paloosa’s ac­tivist chief David Tep­per — who tried and failed to force Saun­ders to bring in an in­de­pen­dent chair­man. And he tried to as­sure every­one on the call that he’s on the job.

David Tep­per

“Let me be clear. I share that frus­tra­tion, I un­der­stand that frus­tra­tion,” he said. “I am a very large share­hold­er rel­a­tive to my own per­son­al hold­ings in Al­ler­gan.” Same as the man­agers.

“The board is on it. The board is en­gaged. Stay tuned.”

Those re­marks dur­ing the Q&A echoed his pre­pared com­ments, which al­so dealt with a $2.5 bil­lion write­down pri­mar­i­ly due to the late-stage fail­ure of ra­pastinel. Said Saun­ders:

“The sense of ur­gency to cre­ate val­ue is high and the board is ac­tive­ly and con­tin­u­ous­ly re­view­ing al­ter­na­tive av­enues that could un­lock val­ue in the near term.”

In the mean­time, Saun­ders and the team tried to re­as­sure an­a­lysts that there were some sure things with­in reach, topped by 4 promised — the word “ex­pect­ed” was used — ap­provals for:

— Cariprazine for bipo­lar de­pres­sion.

— Ubro­gepant for acute mi­graine.

— Abic­i­par for neo­vas­cu­lar age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion.

— Bi­mato­prost for glau­co­ma.

You can wrap up the rest of the as­sur­ances in a se­ries of phras­es.

“Every­thing is on the ta­ble…Sense of ur­gency…Stay tuned.”

Af­ter a year of near si­lence on the deal front, we got an­oth­er burst of as­sur­ances from Saun­ders  — free of any specifics.

R&D is the lifeblood of Al­ler­gan. There’s a com­mit­ment to con­tin­u­ous in­no­va­tion to dri­ve growth. Ten Phase III stud­ies are un­der­way with a va­ri­ety of tri­als emerg­ing from their part­ner­ships. They are con­stant­ly look­ing for new sci­ence, new col­lab­o­ra­tions, re­cruit­ing the best sci­en­tists to up­grade the com­pa­ny’s skills.

And so on.

Marc Good­man at SVB Leerink summed it up like this:

A “glass is half emp­ty” view of these thoughts would be that man­age­ment keeps say­ing the same things over again re­gard­ing this top­ic. How many times have we heard the board has a sense of ur­gency? A “glass is half full” view would be that the CEO did say “stay tuned’ sev­er­al times dur­ing the call when asked about po­ten­tial change.

Vamil Di­van at Cred­it Su­isse doesn’t know how much wa­ter is in the glass, not­ing an­oth­er dip in the stock price that greet­ed the Al­ler­gan team’s re­marks.

Some of this was ob­vi­ous­ly due to the broad­er mar­ket weak­ness to­day but we think much of this was al­so due to in­vestors be­ing dis­ap­point­ed that there was not a more con­crete near-term plan laid out for al­ter­na­tive ways the com­pa­ny may look to gen­er­ate share­hold­er val­ue. It ap­pears the Board is con­sid­er­ing some op­tions fol­low­ing re­cent dis­cus­sions with var­i­ous share­hold­ers, but un­til we get more clar­i­ty on what steps the com­pa­ny may pur­sue, we be­lieve it will be dif­fi­cult for shares to gain any sig­nif­i­cant mo­men­tum.

How ex­act­ly did the mes­sage play with in­vestors? Al­ler­gan shares are down 5% Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Im­age Source: Brent Saun­ders. AP

Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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The home run count: The $100M+ mega-round boom in biotech in­spired a $6.7B feed­ing fren­zy — so far this year

Over the last 6 months there’s been a blizzard of money piling up drifts of the green stuff through the biotech landscape. And the forecast calls for more cash windfalls ahead.

Even as a global pandemic has killed more than half a million people, blighted economies and divided nations over the proper response, it’s also helped ignite an unprecedented burst of big-time investing. And not just in Covid-19 deals, as we’ve looked at before.

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For­bion spot­lights late-stage plays, carves out new €250M growth fund

Having staked its rep on picking out a mix of biotech investment opportunities across the “build,” “enable,” “growth” continuum, Forbion is launching its first fund dedicated to late-stage opportunities.

Forbion Growth Opportunities Fund’s first close brought in €185 million ($208 million). Existing investors Pantheon, KfW Capital and the European Investment Fund came on board, joined by new backers Eli Lilly, Horizon Therapeutics, Belgian Growth Fund and New Waves Investments.

Mer­ck ex­pands scope of Zymeworks an­ti­body al­liance, adding close to $900M in mile­stones

Nearly a decade after first partnering with Merck, Vancouver-based biotech Zymeworks has expanded its collaboration with the pharma giant once again.

Zymeworks re-upped with Merck in a new licensing agreement, granting the New Jersey pharma giant the right to develop up to 3 additional multispecific antibody candidates. In exchange, the biotech will receive an undisclosed upfront payment — Merck is always loath to discuss cash terms — and nearly $900 million in combined regulatory ($411 million) and commercial ($480 million) milestones.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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Ed Engleman (Stanford Blood Center)

Stan­ford star on­col­o­gy sci­en­tist Ed En­gle­man helped cre­ate the im­munother­a­py field. Now he wants to shake up neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion R&D

Over the last generation of drug R&D, Ed Engleman has been a standout scientist.

The Stanford professor co-founded Dendreon and provided the scientific insights needed to develop Provenge into a pioneering — though not particularly marketable — immunotherapy. He’s spurred a slate of startups, assisted by his well-connected perch as a co-founder of Vivo Capital, and took the dendritic cell story into its next chapter at a startup called Bolt.

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Nello Mainolfi (Kymera via YouTube)

Out to re­vive R&D, a resur­gent Sanofi pays $150M cash to part­ner up with a pi­o­neer­ing pro­tein degra­da­tion play­er

Frank Nestle was appointed Sanofi’s global head of immunology and inflammation research therapeutic area just days before dupilumab, the blockbuster-to-be IL-4 antibody, would be accepted for priority review. After four years of consolidating immunology expertise from multiple corners of the Sanofi family and recruiting new talents to build the discovery engine, he’s set eyes on a Phase I-ready program that he believes can grow into a Dupixent-sized franchise.

Atul Deshpande, Harbour BioMed chief strategy officer & head, US operations (Harbour BioMed)

An­oth­er biotech IPO set-up? Multi­na­tion­al biotech leaps from round to round, scoop­ing up cash at a blis­ter­ing pace

A short four months after announcing a $75 million haul in Series B+ fundraising, the multinational biotech Harbour BioMed pulled in another round of investments and eclipsed the nine-digit mark in the process.

Harbour completed its Series C financing, the company announced Thursday morning, raising $102.8 million and bringing its total investment sum to over $300 million since its founding in late 2016. The biotech plans to use the money to transition early-stage candidates from the discovery phase, fund candidates already in the clinic, and prep late-stage candidates for commercialization.

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Covid-19 roundup: CDC de­bat­ing who should get first avail­able vac­cines; EU in Gilead talks af­ter US gob­bled first remde­sivir dos­es

The federal government has now spent billions of dollars accelerating the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, and yet they’ve remained hush-hush on who, precisely, would actually get inoculated once the first doses are approved and available. Internally, though, they have been debating it.

The CDC and an advisory committee of outside health experts have been working since April to devise a ranking system that would determine who receives a vaccine and when, The New York Times reported. The question of who is first in line for inoculation is important because no matter how many doses developers can make or how quickly they can make them, doses will still come out in batches; 300 million inoculations will not appear overnight.

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