GSK bags Tesaro for $5B as it leaps back in­to com­mer­cial on­col­o­gy and beefs up can­cer drug pipeline

Glax­o­SmithK­line has struck a deal to buy Tesaro $TSRO in a $5.1 bil­lion deal that will vault the phar­ma gi­ant in­to the com­mer­cial on­col­o­gy mar­ket as it stakes out a big new role for it­self in the boom­ing can­cer field.

Long dis­cussed af­ter Tesaro man­age­ment put out the word on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions in the past year that it was look­ing to sell the com­pa­ny and its PARP in­hibitor Ze­ju­la, GSK is pay­ing $75 a share, trig­ger­ing an in­stant 60% spike in the stock this morn­ing as in­vestors caught up to the news to­day.

Wait­ing out the ear­ly buzz al­lowed GSK to pick this com­pa­ny up for a rel­a­tive bar­gain. Tesaro start­ed 2018 at $82 a share, but watched its share price slide 42% un­til to­day as an­a­lysts beat them up over their poor sales per­for­mance. In ear­ly 2017, the stock hit a high of $190. That helps ex­plain why Tesaro was nev­er able to suc­ceed at auc­tion­ing the com­pa­ny ear­li­er, when its share price was still in­flat­ed.

Ze­ju­la is one of sev­er­al PARPs to hit the mar­ket af­ter As­traZeneca pi­o­neered the field with the first ap­proval for Lyn­parza, though lit­tle Tesaro has strug­gled to play catch-up along­side Clo­vis and Pfiz­er, which won a re­cent ap­proval for its PARP, ob­tained in the Medi­va­tion buy­out.

It won’t be easy. As­traZeneca and its new part­ners at Mer­ck have poured re­sources in­to the Lyn­parza fran­chise, win­ning block­buster re­turns as they widen their lead over the pack. And the ac­qui­si­tion wasn’t ex­act­ly cheered by GSK in­vestors, who drove the stock down a painful 8% af­ter the news hit.

The ac­qui­si­tion, though, gives Hal Bar­ron’s resur­gent can­cer re­search group un­der Ax­el Hoos a new drug to work with, as GSK pur­sues new in­di­ca­tions in a range of clin­i­cal tri­als aimed at ex­pand­ing its mar­ket pres­ence in on­col­o­gy.

GSK is just now jump­ing back in­to the com­mer­cial can­cer field af­ter strik­ing a deal with No­var­tis to flip its late-stage and mar­ket­ed on­col­o­gy prod­ucts for a port­fo­lio of vac­cines.

The move comes about a year af­ter Bar­ron — who had a leg­endary run at Genen­tech — took the top R&D job at GSK. As he told me ear­li­er this year, his new team — in­clud­ing new BD chief Kevin Sin — was hard at it scour­ing the globe for deals that made sense for the com­pa­ny.

At this point, a weary Tesaro and Ze­ju­la looked un­der­val­ued. And that made it a prime tar­get for the phar­ma com­pa­ny. GSK has been a ma­jor play­er in HIV and vac­cines, but its phar­ma R&D ops are the weak­est in its heavy­weight class.

This new deal brings a pipeline that al­so adds a PD-1 — one in a tidal wave of check­points — as well as TIM-3 and LAG-3 as­sets, which are al­so not so un­com­mon. In the mean­time, Bar­ron made it clear in a call with re­porters this morn­ing that he was ea­ger to see about the po­ten­tial to ex­pand Ze­ju­la in­to the broad­er HRD-pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ty, which would dra­mat­i­cal­ly in­crease the size of the mar­ket.

PARPs work by in­ter­fer­ing with DNA re­pair mech­a­nisms that al­low can­cer cells to sur­vive, open­ing up an av­enue that could re­late to a va­ri­ety of can­cers.

So what hap­pens to the 800 or so staffers at Tesaro? 

Em­ma Walm­s­ley

In a call with re­porters Mon­day morn­ing, CEO Em­ma Walm­s­ley not­ed that the deal wasn’t be­ing dri­ven by cost syn­er­gies and al­so brings com­mer­cial ca­pa­bil­i­ties back to a com­pa­ny that cur­rent­ly doesn’t have an on­col­o­gy sales force. In time, she added, they’ll look at syn­er­gies — code for cuts — but it’s ear­ly days on that.

Walm­s­ley al­so de­clined to say just what kind of peak sales they can ex­pect from Ze­ju­la. In the past, though, peak sales es­ti­mates have climbed to $2 bil­lion.

“Our strong be­lief is that PARP in­hibitors are im­por­tant med­i­cines that have been un­der ap­pre­ci­at­ed in terms of the im­pact they can have on can­cer pa­tients,” Bar­ron not­ed in a state­ment. “We are op­ti­mistic that Ze­ju­la will demon­strate ben­e­fit in pa­tients with ovar­i­an can­cer be­yond those who are BR­CA-pos­i­tive as front-line treat­ment. We are al­so very ex­cit­ed that through this trans­ac­tion, we will have the op­por­tu­ni­ty to work with an out­stand­ing Boston-based on­col­o­gy group with deep clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment ex­per­tise and to­geth­er we will ex­plore Ze­ju­la’s ef­fi­ca­cy be­yond ovar­i­an can­cer in­to mul­ti­ple tu­mour types to help many more pa­tients.”


Im­age: Ax­el Hoos, Hal Bar­ron, John Lep­ore, Kevin Sin and Tony Wood.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Genen­tech plots $53M dis­cov­ery quest aimed at spark­ing a 'Holy moly' piv­ot in neu­ro R&D

Genentech has committed $53 million to back a 10-year quest aimed at going back to the drawing board to use new technology and fresh scientific insights to generate a pipeline of drugs for neurological diseases.

Roche’s big South San Francisco hub will mix it up with the scientists drawn together for the Weill Neurohub — formed in 2019 as a joint research partnership involving UCSF, Berkeley and the University of Washington — in an exploration of the field to develop new therapies for some of the toughest diseases in drug R&D: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, ALS and autism.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

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J&J ad­comm live blog: J&J is al­so test­ing a two-dose vac­cine. What hap­pens if it's more ef­fec­tive?

J&J has spent the day touting the data behind their Covid-19 vaccine, but one advisor pointed that, in a few months, another batch of data could force them into a curious dilemma.

J&J was the only major vaccine developer to attempt to produce a single-dose vaccine, a huge asset when trying to rapidly inoculate the world against an ongoing public health threat, but they hedged their bets. Alongside their main Phase III trial, they also launched another that would test two doses, each spaced two months apart.