Div­ing deep in­to CAR-T, Gilead forges $12B buy­out deal for Kite Phar­ma

Gilead has forged the big, trans­for­ma­tion­al buy­out deal that every­one in the in­dus­try has been wait­ing for.

Gilead $GILD has agreed to buy CAR-T pi­o­neer Kite Phar­ma $KITE — which is like­ly just months away from its first ap­proval — for $11.9 bil­lion in cash.

The buy­out will in­stant­ly make Gilead a leader in adop­tive cell ther­a­py, go­ing head-to-head against No­var­tis’ lead­ing ef­fort with CTL019. And in a call with an­a­lysts ear­ly Mon­day, Gilead ex­ecs un­der­scored that while cell ther­a­pies would be­come the cor­ner­stone of their work in on­col­o­gy, the busi­ness de­vel­op­ment team is pur­su­ing more pacts to build that seg­ment of the pipeline.

Gilead agreed to forge the deal at a price of $180 a share, a rel­a­tive­ly mod­est 29% pre­mi­um of the com­pa­ny’s al­ready swollen share price. Just three years ago, though, Kite went pub­lic with an IPO that ini­tial­ly priced at $17 a share. The buy­out price rep­re­sents a 960% in­crease on that.

The biggest sin­gle ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the buy­out will be Kite CEO Arie Bellde­grun, whose 5.9% stake in Kite — list­ed in the lat­est avail­able proxy state­ment — is to­day worth $597,706,380.

Arie Bellde­grun

Kite’s lead­ing drug is axi-cel, which comes with a peak sales es­ti­mate hov­er­ing close to $2 bil­lion a year. But the com­pa­ny has al­so been ac­tive­ly work­ing on a slate of next-gen can­cer ther­a­pies that promise to move be­yond the ini­tial re-en­gi­neer­ing work with chimeric anti­gen re­cep­tors in an ef­fort to move be­yond blood can­cers and in­to sol­id tu­mors.

For Gilead, it’s a chance to forge a new busi­ness that can be re­li­ably lined up next to its foun­da­tion­al work in HIV, where it con­tin­ues to be an in­dus­try leader. Gilead paid $11 bil­lion for Phar­mas­set to break in­to the hep C mar­ket. The com­pa­ny ac­com­plished that task with fly­ing col­ors, but af­ter watch­ing sales swell in­to megablock­buster ter­ri­to­ry, rev­enue has peaked and is ex­pect­ed to slide in com­ing years.

That com­bi­na­tion of fi­nan­cial fire­pow­er — Gilead can eas­i­ly fund this deal re­ly­ing on its cash re­serves — and a need to build the busi­ness put Gilead in a per­fect spot to ac­quire Kite just as the biotech neared a ma­jor cross­road.

For Kite CEO Bellde­grun, the buy­out marks the end of a ma­jor dri­ve to cre­ate a com­pa­ny that could de­vel­op and mar­ket a per­son­al­ized cell ther­a­py. Kite has worked close­ly with the NCI’s Steven Rosen­berg, the sci­en­tist who helped pi­o­neer CAR-T ther­a­pies.

This ac­qui­si­tion al­so has some im­pli­ca­tions for the in­dus­try. M&A has been lack­ing so far in 2017, with big play­ers like Pfiz­er hold­ing back in an­tic­i­pa­tion of tax re­form leg­is­la­tion that would al­low them to move bil­lions from over­seas ac­counts. Gilead CEO Mil­li­gan, though, has con­sis­tent­ly main­tained that to run a bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny prop­er­ly, you need to ig­nore what’s go­ing on in Wash­ing­ton and make de­ci­sions. He may in­spire oth­ers to fol­low suit, oil­ing the tracks on more deals.

John Mil­li­gan, Gilead CEO

“The ac­qui­si­tion of Kite es­tab­lish­es Gilead as a leader in cel­lu­lar ther­a­py and pro­vides a foun­da­tion from which to dri­ve con­tin­ued in­no­va­tion for peo­ple with ad­vanced can­cers,” said John Mil­li­gan, Gilead’s pres­i­dent and CEO. “The field of cell ther­a­py has ad­vanced very quick­ly, to the point where the sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy have opened a clear path to­ward a po­ten­tial cure for pa­tients. We are great­ly im­pressed with the Kite team and what they have ac­com­plished, and share their be­lief that cell ther­a­py will be the cor­ner­stone of treat­ing can­cer. Our sim­i­lar cul­tures and his­to­ries of dri­ving rapid in­no­va­tion in or­der to bring more ef­fec­tive and safer prod­ucts to as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble make this an ex­cel­lent strate­gic fit.”

Here comes the oral GLP-1 drug for di­a­betes — but No­vo Nordisk is­n't dis­clos­ing Ry­bel­sus price just yet

Novo Nordisk’s priority review voucher on oral semaglutide has paid off. The FDA approval for the GLP-1 drug hit late Friday morning, around six months after the NDA filing.

Rybelsus will be the first GLP-1 pill to enter the type 2 diabetes market — a compelling offering that analysts have pegged as a blockbuster drug with sales estimates ranging from $2 billion to $5 billion.

Ozempic, the once-weekly injectable formulation of semaglutide, brought in around $552 million (DKK 3.75 billion) in the first half of 2019.

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Oxitec biologist releases genetically modified mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil in 2016 [credit: Getty Images]

In­trex­on unit push­es back against claims its GM mos­qui­toes are mak­ing dis­ease-friend­ly mu­tants

When the hysteria of Zika transmission sprang into the American zeitgeist a few years ago, UK-based Oxitec was already field-testing its male Aedes aegypti mosquito, crafted to possess a gene engineered to obliterate its progeny long before maturation.

But when a group of independent scientists evaluated the impact of the release of these genetically-modified mosquitoes in a trial conducted by Oxitec in Brazil between 2013 and 2015, they found that some of the offspring had managed to survive — prompting them to speculate what impact the survivors could have on disease transmission and/or insecticide resistance.

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Pur­due threat­ens to walk away from set­tle­ment, asks to pay em­ploy­ees mil­lions in bonus­es

There are two updates on the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic, as the Sackler family threatens to walk away from their pledge to pay out $3 billion if a bankruptcy judge does not stop outstanding state lawsuits against them. At the same time, the company has asked permission to pay millions in bonuses to select employees.

Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy this week as part of its signed resolution to over 2,000 lawsuits. The deal would see the Sackler family that owns Purdue give $3 billion from their personal wealth and the company turned into a trust committed to curbing and reversing overdoses.

Aerial view of Genentech's campus in South San Francisco [Credit: Getty]

Genen­tech sub­mits a plan to near­ly dou­ble its South San Fran­cis­co foot­print

The sign is still there, a quaint reminder of whitewashed concrete not 5 miles from Genentech’s sprawling, chrome-and-glass campus: South Francisco The Industrial City. 

The city keeps the old sign, first erected in 1923, as a tourist site and a kind of civic memento to the days it packed meat, milled lumber and burned enough steel to earn the moniker “Smokestack of the Peninsula.” But the real indication of where you are and how much has changed both in San Francisco and in the global economy since a couple researchers and investors rented out an empty warehouse 40 years ago comes in a far smaller blue sign, resembling a Rotary Club post, off the highway: South San Francisco, The Birthplace of Biotech.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.