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Illumina president and CEO Francis deSouza (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

EU set to launch full-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to Grail-Il­lu­mi­na deal amid an­titrust con­cerns — re­port

The proposed $8 billion merger between liquid biopsy firm Grail and cancer blood screening giant Illumina has met with nothing but flack since it was first announced in September. After hitting waves in the US earlier this year, the pact is now facing a potentially devastating setback in the EU as well.

The EU is prepared to launch a full-scale probe into a pending merger between Grail and Illumina that has evolved into Exhibit A for international antitrust advocates’ case against noncompetitive pharma M&A, sources close to the deal told Reuters.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA; Sipa via AP Images)

As­traZeneca's planned takeover of Alex­ion clears last reg­u­la­to­ry re­view, deal to close next week

The final regulatory hurdle for AstraZeneca’s mega-merger with Alexion Pharmaceuticals has been cleared, paving the way for the deal to close as soon as next week.

Britain’s financial watchdog, The UK Competition & Markets Authority, has rubber stamped AstraZeneca’s $39 billion takeover of the Boston-based rare disease biotech, the companies announced Wednesday morning. As a result, the transaction is expected to close on July 21, with Alexion shares $ALXN being converted to AstraZeneca stock $AZN and removed from Nasdaq the next day.

UP­DAT­ED: Eli Lil­ly swoops in to buy a small pro­tein drug de­vel­op­er and its glu­cose re­spon­sive in­sulin in $1B-plus deal

Eight months after taking the lead on an investment in Protomer Technologies and its glucose responsive insulin, Eli Lilly is coming back for the whole thing.

The big diabetes player said Wednesday morning that it is committing up to $1 billion-plus to snag ownership of the fledgling biotech and its technology, though they didn’t say how much they were fronting in cash.

Lilly made no secret of its interest in the next-gen protein therapeutics company, which has been at work on insulin “that can sense sugar levels in the blood and automatically activate as needed throughout the day.”

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Martin Shkreli (Dennis Van Tine/Sipa USA, Sipa via AP Images)

Scoop: Ac­tivist­s' at­tempt to take over in­fa­mous Mar­tin Shkre­li com­pa­ny fails, as ‘Phar­ma Bro’ votes from prison

An activist group’s efforts to gain control of Phoenixus — the parent company to Martin Shkreli’s infamous Turing Pharmaceuticals, now rennamed as Vyera — failed on Monday, as shareholders voted to keep four of the five current directors. The vote was influenced by the “Pharma Bro” himself, who voted on his shares from prison.

The directors — Miguel Barron, William Rueckert, Jordan Walker and William Hess — were re-elected in a landslide vote, with many of them getting more than 70% of the votes in favor. However, shareholders voted overwhelmingly against re-electing Averill Powers, CEO and chairman.

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Kevin Lee, Bicycle Therapeutics CEO (Bicycle)

Strug­gling Io­n­is li­cens­es Bi­cy­cle Ther­a­peu­tic­s' plat­form in a bid to de­vel­op drugs that can cross blood-brain bar­ri­er

Attempting to rebound from setbacks earlier this year, Ionis has enlisted a new partner in a quest to create drugs that can cross the blood-brain barrier. And the technology comes from a British biotech primarily known for its efforts into oncology.

The collaboration will see Ionis exclusively license a platform from Bicycle Therapeutics to develop oligonucleotides targeting the transferrin receptor 1, the companies announced Tuesday morning. Bicycle is nabbing $45 million upfront and an $11 million equity investment from Ionis.

Al Sandrock (Biogen via YouTube)

In search of a post-Tec­fidera hit for MS, Bio­gen fol­lows Sanofi, Roche down the BTK path — and bets $125M cash on a drug out of Chi­na

Aduhelm may be hogging the spotlight, but behind the scenes, Biogen’s BD team has apparently looked far and wide to spice up the pipeline.

Exhibit A: orelabrutinib, a BTK inhibitor it’s paying $125 million to license from China’s InnoCare Pharma. In particular, Biogen is scoring worldwide rights to develop and commercialize the oral small molecule in multiple sclerosis — the disease where it first made its name.

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Michael Yee (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Af­ter month­s­long lull, Big Phar­ma should be ready to pounce on M&A as mar­ket set­tles — an­a­lysts

Those who have been longing for the return of merger Mondays may not have to wait that much longer.

That’s according to Jefferies analysts, who see the current drawdown in biotech stocks — the XBI is down 25% from a peak in February — setting the stage for some serious M&A, even if emerging antitrust concerns could form new hurdles.

With Jazz’s pursuit of GW Pharma and Viela’s sale to Horizon marking the only two deals over $3 billion so far this year, the way they see it, we’re now four to five months into a “correction,” which could amount to a period for valuations to normalize. Hit the six-month mark, and the buyers should be ready to swoop in with the cash they’ve hoarded — as AbbVie, Merck, Gilead and Vertex indicated they’re eager to do.

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Branch­ing out from di­a­betes? No­vo Nordisk shells out the big bucks for Prothena's AT­TR amy­loi­do­sis pipeline

Ostensibly looking to branch out from its diabetes franchises, Novo Nordisk is making a major play into the amyloid space — and paying a pretty penny to do so.

The Danish pharma company is grabbing a Prothena antibody and wider program in ATTR amyloidosis for $100 million upfront, the companies announced Monday morning. Prothena’s candidate in question is the PRX004 compound, a monoclonal antibody designed to deplete amyloid deposits in hereditary and wild type ATTR amyloidosis.

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Jacek Olczak, Philip Morris CEO (Yen Meng Jiin/Singapore Press via AP Images)

Kick­ing the habit, Philip Mor­ris forges $1.5B deal to ac­quire Vec­tura in race to build a top in­haled-drug com­pa­ny

Philip Morris is switching focus from smoking to health in a big way. And today it’s trumpeting a move into inhaled therapeutics with a $1.5 billion deal — which includes a recent dividend payout — to acquire Vectura, along with the services of some 200 scientists working on building their new pipeline.

Investors are getting 150 pence a share.

The move comes after the UK-based Vectura moved past clinical setbacks and reorganized into a CDMO, nabbing top industry clients like Novartis to make their inhaled drugs.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO

As­traZeneca takes a chance on the STING path­way with F-star

After a slew of Big Pharma companies and biotechs walked away from the STING pathway in the last few years, AstraZeneca is approaching the field with a new bet on the drug class’ next generation.

The British drugmaker is teaming up with F-star Therapeutics on a slate of preclinical STING inhibitor compounds, the companies announced Thursday morning. It’s a modest sum as these things go, with $12 million upfront and over $300 million in milestones, plus single-digit royalties.