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Hap­py alone Qi­a­gen changes course af­ter Ther­mo Fish­er of­fers to buy it in $11.5B deal

Dutch di­ag­nos­tics com­pa­ny Qi­a­gen — which is de­vel­op­ing tests for the on­go­ing coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic — is be­ing ac­quired by US-based sci­en­tif­ic in­stru­ments mak­er Ther­mo Fish­er Sci­en­tif­ic in a deal val­ued at $11.5 bil­lion, in­clud­ing debt.

The an­nounce­ment comes months af­ter the Nether­lands-based com­pa­ny, which is list­ed on the NYSE, no­ti­fied in­vestors that it was re­view­ing po­ten­tial strate­gic al­ter­na­tives af­ter it re­ceived sev­er­al “in­di­ca­tions of in­ter­est” for an ac­qui­si­tion. But by De­cem­ber, it con­clud­ed it would pre­fer to go it alone.

The deal will boost Mass­a­chu­setts-based Ther­mo Fish­er’s spe­cial­ty di­ag­nos­tics plat­form that in­cludes al­ler­gy and au­toim­mu­ni­ty, trans­plant di­ag­nos­tics and clin­i­cal on­col­o­gy test­ing with mol­e­c­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics, par­tic­u­lar­ly for in­fec­tious dis­eases.

“The ac­qui­si­tion brings about strong sam­ples prep ca­pa­bil­i­ties to TMO in ad­di­tion to mol­e­c­u­lar di­ag­nos­tics and in­fec­tious dis­ease test­ing — in­clud­ing a lead­ing TB test­ing fran­chise,” SVB Leerink’s Puneet Sou­da wrote in a note, adding that the deal should fur­ther lever Ther­mo Fish­er to Covid-19.

The dead­ly coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic has cul­mi­nat­ed in 3,000 deaths and cas­es have topped 90,000. Qi­a­gen — which pro­vid­ed equip­ment dur­ing the SARS and swine flu out­breaks — said it had shipped test kits for the nov­el coro­n­avirus to four hos­pi­tals in Chi­na for eval­u­a­tion days ago.

Ther­mo Fish­er makes and dis­trib­utes sci­en­tif­ic equip­ment, con­sum­ables, and ser­vices used by phar­ma & biotech, di­ag­nos­tics & health­care com­pa­nies, aca­d­e­m­ic & gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, as well as in­dus­tri­al com­pa­nies. Its in­stru­ments and reagents are em­ployed in the CDC-ap­proved as­say pro­to­col for the de­tec­tion of Covid-19.

The com­pa­ny, which has com­plet­ed sev­en $1+ bil­lion deals in the past decade, is set to pay €39 a share for Qi­a­gen. That works out to a pre­mi­um of 23% to Qi­a­gen’s Mon­day clos­ing.

The $11.5 bil­lion deal al­so in­cludes the as­sump­tion of $1.4 bil­lion of net debt. The trans­ac­tion, ex­pect­ed to close in the first half of next year, has been ap­proved by both boards.

This large­ly spec­u­lat­ed Qi­a­gen ac­qui­si­tion should have a lim­it­ed im­pact on oth­er large-cap com­pa­nies in the life sci­ence tools mar­ket, Sou­da added.

For Qi­a­gen, the buy­out fol­lows its strate­gic shift last year that saw it cease de­vel­op­ing its own next-gen­er­a­tion genome-se­quenc­ing ma­chines to in­stead col­lab­o­rate with bell­wether Il­lu­mi­na, which led to the de­par­ture of its long-time CEO.

Qi­a­gen, which gen­er­at­ed 2019 rev­enue of more than $1.5 bil­lion, has built a suite of ge­nom­ic an­a­lyt­ic prod­ucts based on tech­nol­o­gy en­gi­neered to ex­tract, iso­late and pu­ri­fy DNA, RNA and pro­teins from a wide range of bi­o­log­i­cal sam­ples.

Ther­mo Fish­er’s shares $TMO lift­ed 1.6% in pre­mar­ket trad­ing to $309.89, while Qi­a­gen’s stock $QGEN jumped more than 16% to $42.03.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

UP­DAT­ED: Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and sold off much of its shares just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

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Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

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President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

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Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

Sebastian Nijman (file photo)

Roche looks to ge­net­ic mod­i­fiers for new drug tar­gets, team­ing up with Dutch biotech in $375M deal

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A spinout of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Oxford University, Scenic Biotech set out to pioneer a field that’s gaining some traction among top VCs in the US: to harness the natural protecting powers of genetic modifiers — specific genes that suppress a disease phenotype.

Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

A press of­fi­cer at An­tho­ny Fau­ci’s NI­AID was un­masked as a hard-right Covid troll. He just re­tired to­day

William B Crews had been a public affairs specialist at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That ended today when he informed the agency of his decision to retire, after he was identified as the managing editor at RedState, a prominent Trump loyalist website.

Crews’ RedState duties are performed under the alias streiff. While enjoying the benefits of pseudonymity, he disparaged and worked against NIAID with an incendiary level of rhetoric in the midst of a pandemic.

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With the CheckMate-577 data at ESMO, CMO Samit Hirawat said, the company believes it can change the treatment paradigm.

While a quarter to 30% of patients typically achieve a complete response following chemoradiation therapy and surgery, the rest do not, said Ronan Kelly of Baylor University Medical Center. The recurrence rate is also high within the first year, Hirawat added.

Eli Lilly CSO Dan Skovronsky (file photo)

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On Sunday at ESMO, Eli Lilly announced the full results for its Phase III MonarchE trial of Verzenio, showing that across over 5,000 women who had had HR+, HER2- breast cancer, the drug reduced the odds of recurrence by 25%. That meant 7.8% of the patients on the drug arm saw their cancers return within 2 years, compared with 11.3% on the placebo arm.

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