J&J gets a $30B Acte­lion buy­out and a new part­ner as Clozel’s team spins out with the pipeline

One of the big hur­dles fac­ing any­one who want­ed to buy Acte­lion was find­ing a way to come up with an ac­cept­able ac­qui­si­tion val­ue for its pipeline, which was high­ly prized by its in­de­pen­dent-mind­ed man­age­ment. So in the end, J&J got a buy­out deal done by be­ing cre­ative, spin­ning out a big part of the pipeline, with Acte­lion’s team in charge, while grab­bing rights to some prized late-stage as­sets for it­self.

In a deal an­nounced ear­ly this morn­ing, J&J agreed to pay $30 bil­lion for Acte­lion, ac­quir­ing an im­pres­sive port­fo­lio that in­cludes its block­buster new flag­ship ther­a­py for pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion. But they’re spin­ning its dis­cov­ery and ear­ly-stage ex­per­i­men­tal drugs in­to a new com­pa­ny — tem­porar­i­ly named R&D New­Co — while keep­ing a mi­nor­i­ty stake in the busi­ness.

Acte­lion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel will stay at the helm of the spin­out, while chair­man Jean-Pierre Gar­nier al­so re­tains his ti­tle in the new ven­ture.

J&J is pay­ing $280 a share in cash for the Swiss biotech and leav­ing R&D New­Co with a bil­lion dol­lars in liq­uid­i­ty as it lists on the Swiss ex­change. Acte­lion’s share­hold­ers are gain­ing shares in the new com­pa­ny as a div­i­dend. In ad­di­tion to a slate of mar­ket­ed drugs that in­cludes Op­sum­it, Up­travi and the orig­i­nal, pi­o­neer­ing PAH drug Tr­a­cleer, J&J al­so gains glob­al rights to pones­i­mod, an S1P1 re­cep­tor mod­u­la­tor in Phase III de­vel­op­ment for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, along with cada­zol­id, a late-stage an­tibi­ot­ic in de­vel­op­ment for Clostrid­i­um dif­fi­cile-as­so­ci­at­ed di­ar­rhea.

J&J’s Alex Gorsky

J&J al­so gains an op­tion on the Phase II drug ACT-132577 for re­sis­tant hy­per­ten­sion. And the phar­ma gi­ant keeps a 16% stake in its spin­out, with a chance to dou­ble that amount through a con­vert­ible note.

The deal un­der­scores the high pre­mi­um that sought-af­ter drug as­sets can com­mand in this sell­er’s mar­ket. J&J is pay­ing 21 times es­ti­mat­ed 2020 earn­ings per share for the com­pa­ny, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg’s Sam Fazeli, a very steep price for a deal like this. It al­so high­lights yet again how in­ef­fec­tive Sanofi has been in find­ing a ma­jor deal to help re­struc­ture the com­pa­ny as its di­a­betes fran­chise wanes. J&J es­sen­tial­ly el­bowed Sanofi aside, just as Pfiz­er did with Medi­va­tion.

J&J’s Alex Gorsky had this to say about the deal:

Adding Acte­lion’s port­fo­lio to our al­ready strong Janssen Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals busi­ness is a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty for us to ex­pand our port­fo­lio with lead­ing, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed in-mar­ket med­i­cines and promis­ing late-stage prod­ucts. We ex­pect to lever­age our es­tab­lished glob­al pres­ence and com­mer­cial strength to ac­cel­er­ate growth and pa­tient ac­cess to these im­por­tant ther­a­pies. Fur­ther, we be­lieve R&D New­Co will be strong­ly po­si­tioned to con­tin­ue Acte­lion’s lega­cy of in­no­va­tion and look for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of cut­ting-edge new ther­a­pies.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

President Trump walks past HHS secretary Alex Azar (Getty Images)

Azar falls in line un­der Trump again. Ex­perts say he's re­in­forc­ing a dark sig­nal sent to the FDA

In the latest incident where Alex Azar has steadfastly taken the side of President Donald Trump over that of the FDA, the HHS secretary was noncommittal this morning when asked if he supports the attempt by his subordinates at the FDA to strengthen guidelines for a vaccine EUA.

Appearing on NBC’s Today Show, the HHS secretary muddied the waters, stating that the guidance that matters is the one that is “actually already out there.”

CDC’s Robert Redfield, NIAID’s Anthony Fauci, Admiral Brett Giroir at HHS, and FDA’s Stephen Hahn prepare to testify at a House hearing on June 23 (Getty)

'Ex­treme­ly po­lit­i­cal' — Trump neuters FDA's at­tempt to strength­en vac­cine EUA

Stephen Hahn went before a Senate committee Wednesday and declared he’s fighting. “Every one of the decisions we have reached has been made by career FDA scientists based on science and data, not politics,” he exclaimed, adding that “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that. I will fight for science.”

A few hours later, he was undermined by President Donald Trump when a reporter asked if he was okay with stricter vaccine guidelines that the FDA was said to be cooking up. “That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move,” he decided.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo (AP Images)

An­drew Cuo­mo says New York will un­der­take its own vac­cine re­view process, and wouldn’t rec­om­mend trust­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment

The concerns keep mounting over President Donald Trump’s politicization of the FDA and other federal agencies guiding the development of a safe and effective vaccine. And today, the telegenic New York governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to introduce even more politics into the matter — latest in an ongoing series of incidents that have cast the proudly independent FDA in starkly political terms.

During his daily press conference Cuomo said that the state will review any coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government, citing a lack of trust of the Trump administration. The announcement comes one day after Trump accused the FDA of making an “extremely political” move in proposing stricter vaccine guidance.

Covid-19 roundup: Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed's 7th vac­cine is live at­ten­u­at­ed; Small biotech touts big suc­cess where gi­ants have failed

Operation Warp Speed is stacking its vaccine portfolio with a “TBD” new candidate: a live attenuated vaccine that can be administered in a single dose, potentially as an oral formulation rather than an injection.

Sound familiar?

That could be because the unannounced candidate appears to match the profile of an inoculation being developed by Merck, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the development based on a presentation by Moncef Slaoui.

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On­ly five months af­ter a Se­ries A launch, Taysha goes pub­lic with $157M IPO

As has been the trend in 2020, Taysha Gene Therapies has become the latest biotech to make a quick ascent from a small, privately-funded company to enjoying its very own Nasdaq ticker.

The Dallas-based biotech raised $157 million for its IPO after pricing shares at $20 apiece Thursday, the high-point of its expected range. Initially pegging $100 million in financing, Taysha offered a little less than 8 million shares and will trade under the $TSHA symbol.

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David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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PhII Alzheimer's fail­ure deals new blow to Roche, AC Im­mune — but the tau hy­poth­e­sis is far from dead

The leading anti-tau antibody has failed its first Phase II testing, casting a shadow on a popular target (just trailing amyloid beta) for Alzheimer’s disease.

Roche and AC Immune are quick to acknowledge disappointment in the topline readout, which suggested that semorinemab did not reduce cognitive decline among patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, who are either just starting to have symptoms or have mild manifestations.

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Covid-19 roundup: J&J be­gins piv­otal Phase III tri­al for vac­cine; Con­tro­ver­sial hu­man chal­lenge tri­als to be­gin in Lon­don — re­port

Johnson & Johnson announced it’s beginning a pivotal Phase III trial for its Covid-19 candidate, JNJ-78436735 — the first single-dose vaccine in this stage.

The Phase III trial, dubbed ENSEMBLE, will enroll 60,000 patients worldwide, making it the largest Phase III study of a Covid-19 vaccine to date. J&J said the candidate achieved positive interim results in a Phase I/IIa study, which will be published “imminently.” There’s a possibility that the first batches will be ready for potential emergency use in early 2021, according to the company.

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