For­mer FBI trainee charged with in­sid­er trad­ing scheme ahead of Mer­ck-Pan­dion buy­out

Work­ing from home presents some unique chal­lenges. Just ask a lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed Mer­ck dur­ing its $1.85 bil­lion Pan­dion takeover.

A for­mer FBI trainee has been charged with in­sid­er trad­ing over prof­its he made from buy­ing Pan­dion stock based on pri­vate in­for­ma­tion about the Mer­ck ac­qui­si­tion — which he al­leged­ly learned while work­ing from home with a “ro­man­tic part­ner,” who al­so hap­pened to be an as­so­ciate at a law firm rep­re­sent­ing Mer­ck.

As a re­sult of the pan­dem­ic, Seth Markin, a 31-year-old Penn­syl­va­nia man, fre­quent­ly stayed over at his part­ner’s apart­ment last Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary, around the same time that Mer­ck had com­plet­ed its due dili­gence and filed a pro­pos­al to take over Pan­dion. At the end of Jan­u­ary, his part­ner was as­signed to work on the pro­posed deal.

Markin was present in the apart­ment for work-re­lat­ed calls and — while his part­ner wasn’t look­ing — he al­leged­ly looked through a binder con­tain­ing con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion about the deal, ac­cord­ing to an SEC com­plaint.

The day af­ter his part­ner was as­signed to the Mer­ck case, Markin al­leged­ly be­gan buy­ing up Pan­dion stock. The SEC al­so ac­cused him of tip­ping off a friend, 38-year-old New York City res­i­dent Bran­don Wong. By Feb. 23, 2021 — two days be­fore the deal was pub­licly an­nounced — Markin had pur­chased 2,270 shares of Pan­dion stock.

Wong, who com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Markin us­ing an en­crypt­ed mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, bought 35,382 shares of Pan­dion stock. Both Markin and Wong al­leged­ly tipped off oth­ers as well, ac­cord­ing to the SEC.

Af­ter the deal was pub­licly an­nounced, and Pan­dion’s share price soared over 133%, Markin and Wong made rough­ly $82,000 and $1.3 mil­lion, re­spec­tive­ly, in what the SEC says are il­le­gal prof­its.

Mer­ck an­nounced on Feb. 25 that it would shell out $1.85 bil­lion to snap up Pan­dion and its port­fo­lio of reg­u­la­to­ry T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of au­toim­mune dis­or­ders. That in­clud­ed lead IL-2 can­di­date for ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis PT101, which scored a Phase Ia win ear­li­er that year. Pan­dion re­ject­ed two of­fers for Mer­ck over the last few years be­fore fi­nal­ly ac­cept­ing the lat­est one.

Af­ter the deal an­nounce­ment, Wong al­leged­ly bought Markin a Rolex as a thank-you gift, and paid for some of his ex­pens­es on a trip to Hawaii.

The case is part of a se­ries of in­sid­er charges that the SEC brought against nine in­di­vid­u­als in three sep­a­rate al­leged schemes on Mon­day.

“If every­day in­vestors think that the mar­ket is rigged at their ex­pense in fa­vor of in­sid­ers who abuse their po­si­tions, they are not go­ing to in­vest their hard earned mon­ey in the mar­kets,” Gur­bir Gre­w­al, di­rec­tor of the SEC’s en­force­ment di­vi­sion, said in a state­ment.

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Uğur Şahin, BioNTech CEO (Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

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While Pfizer raked in almost $28 billion last quarter, its Covid-19 vaccine partner BioNTech reported a rise in total dose orders but a drop in sales.

The German biotech reported over $3.2 billion in revenue in Q2 on Monday, down from more than $6.7 billion in Q1, in part due to falling Covid sales. While management said last quarter that they anticipated a Covid sales drop — CEO Uğur Şahin said at the time that “the pandemic situation is still very much uncertain” — Q2 sales still missed consensus by 14%.

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FDA commissioner Rob Califf (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (David Zorrakino/Europa Press via AP Images)

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Regulators didn’t keep AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo waiting long at all for their latest Enhertu approval.

The partners pulled a win on Friday in HER2-low breast cancer patients who’ve already failed on chemotherapy, just two weeks after submitting a supplemental BLA. While this isn’t the FDA’s fastest approval — Bristol Myers Squibb won an OK for its blockbuster checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo in just five days back in March — it comes well ahead of Enhertu’s original Q4 PDUFA date.

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Up­dat­ed: Pfiz­er scoops up Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics and its sick­le cell ther­a­pies for $5.4B

Pfizer is dropping $5.4 billion to acquire Global Blood Therapeutics.

Just ahead of the weekend, word got out that Pfizer was close to clinching a $5 billion buyout — albeit with other potential buyers still at the table. The pharma giant, flush with cash from Covid-19 vaccine sales, apparently got out on top.

The deal immediately swells Pfizer’s previously tiny sickle cell disease portfolio from just a Phase I program to one with an approved drug, Oxbryta, plus a whole pipeline that, if all approved, the company believes could make for a $3 billion franchise at peak.

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David Reese, Amgen R&D chief

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GSK and IQVIA launch plat­form of US vac­ci­na­tion da­ta, show­ing drop in adult rates

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Ab­b­Vie sur­veys emo­tion­al im­pact of chron­ic leukemia con­di­tion, finds 'roller coast­er' of emo­tions

Rare diseases often have more than just physical effects on patients — especially when it comes to chronic conditions. In the case of the rare slow-growing blood cancer chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), AbbVie wanted to try to assess the mental and emotional toll on patients.

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Sen­ate Dems cling to a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty to pass some of the biggest drug pric­ing re­forms ever

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Whenever a big drug pricing bill comes up, an army of the industry group’s lobbyists descend onto the Hill and either smash it outright or dismantle it piece by piece.

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