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

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.