Lig­and to split in half, spin­ning Om­niAb plat­form in­to its own com­pa­ny

It’s been six years since Lig­and Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals plumped down $178 mil­lion for OMT and its an­ti­body dis­cov­ery plat­form Om­niAb. Now, with a slate of big-name part­ners, it’s time for the tech­nol­o­gy to take on a new life as its own in­de­pen­dent com­pa­ny, Lig­and said yes­ter­day.

Lig­and is split­ting in­to two sep­a­rate, pub­licly trad­ed busi­ness­es, the com­pa­ny an­nounced just af­ter the bell on Tues­day: one fea­tur­ing the Om­niAb busi­ness and the oth­er hous­ing Lig­and’s ex­ist­ing roy­al­ties and tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing its Pel­i­can pro­tein ex­pres­sion plat­form and Cap­ti­sol sol­u­bil­i­ty tech.

John Hig­gins

“Af­ter sig­nif­i­cant plan­ning and analy­sis, we have con­clud­ed we are op­er­at­ing two dis­tinct, high-growth com­pa­nies with­in Lig­and,” CEO John Hig­gins said in a state­ment. “Along with out­side ad­vi­sors we have de­ter­mined the time is right to pur­sue a strate­gic plan to cre­ate two in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies and ac­cel­er­ate in­vest­ment in­to the Om­niAb plat­form and tech­nolo­gies to fur­ther dri­ve val­ue.”

Lig­and’s stock $LGND was up more than 5% in pre-mar­ket trad­ing, pric­ing in at just over $160 per share.

The news comes as the tech hunters at Lig­and con­tin­ue to shop for new as­sets. Just a few months ago, the com­pa­ny put down $438 mil­lion in cash, plus an­oth­er $78 mil­lion in con­tin­gent val­ue agree­ments to ac­quire Pfenex and their pro­tein ex­pres­sion plat­form. They’ve at­tract­ed some im­pres­sive part­ners along the way, in­clud­ing a pact last Feb­ru­ary for one of Roche’s neu­ro­log­i­cal pro­grams, and a sep­a­rate pro­gram from Ica­gen that is al­so backed by the CF Foun­da­tion.

This Au­gust, the Om­niAb plat­form saw its first ap­proval: an an­ti-PD-1 mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body called zim­bere­limab, which got the OK in Chi­na to treat re­cur­rent or re­frac­to­ry clas­si­cal Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. Glo­ri­aBio dis­cov­ered the drug back in 2015 us­ing Lig­and’s trans­genic rat plat­form, Om­ni­Rat.

Lig­and’s ex­pect­ing a de­ci­sion from Chi­nese reg­u­la­tors on an­oth­er an­ti-PD-1 an­ti­body dis­cov­ered us­ing Om­ni­Rat, EQRx and CStone’s sug­e­mal­imab, lat­er this year. Based on cur­rent pro­jec­tions, Lig­and says it could rack up 10 Om­niAb ap­provals by 2028.

“We be­lieve more than ever that Om­niAb of­fers one of the in­dus­try’s lead­ing an­ti­body dis­cov­ery plat­forms and that the busi­ness is primed for suc­cess for years to come,” Hig­gins said.

While Lig­and’s board of di­rec­tors hasn’t ap­proved a spe­cif­ic course of ac­tion for the split, the lead­ing op­tion is an IPO and dis­tri­b­u­tion of Om­niAb shares to Lig­and share­hold­ers, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny.

A cor­rec­tion has been made to re­flect that the CF Foun­da­tion-fund­ed pro­gram is sep­a­rate from the Roche pro­gram.

Alexander Lefterov/Endpoints News

A new can­cer im­munother­a­py brings cau­tious hope for a field long await­ing the next big break­through

Bob Seibert sat silent across from his daughter at their favorite Spanish restaurant near his home in Charleston County, SC, their paella growing cold as he read through all the places in his body doctors found tumors.

He had texted his wife, a pediatric intensive care nurse, when he got the alert that his online chart was ready. Although he saw immediately it was bad, many of the terms — peritoneal, right iliac — were inscrutable. But she was five hours downstate, at a loud group dinner the night before another daughter’s cheer competition.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

In a set­back, FDA or­ders Gilead to hit the brakes on their late-stage, $5B can­cer play

Gilead’s $5 billion drug magrolimab has run into a serious setback.

The FDA ordered Gilead to halt enrollment on their studies of the drug in combination with azacitidine after investigators reports revealed an “apparent imbalance” in the suspected unexpected serious adverse reactions between study arms. And the halt is raising questions about Gilead’s plans for a quick pitch to regulators.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Graphic: Alexander Lefterov for Endpoints News

Small biotechs with big drug am­bi­tions threat­en to up­end the tra­di­tion­al drug launch play­book

Of the countless decisions Vlad Coric had to make as Biohaven’s CEO over the past seven years, there was one that felt particularly nerve-wracking: Instead of selling to a Big Pharma, the company decided it would commercialize its migraine drug itself.

“I remember some investors yelling and pounding on the table like, you can’t do this. What are you thinking? You’re going to get crushed by AbbVie,” he recalled.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er de­buts Pre­vnar 20 TV ads; Lil­ly gets first FDA 2022 pro­mo slap down let­ter

Pfizer debuted its first TV ad for its Prevnar 20 next-generation pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. In the 60-second spot, several people (actor portrayals) with their ages listed as 65 or older are shown walking into a clinic as they turn to say they’re getting vaccinated with Prevnar 20 because they’re at risk.

The update to Pfizer’s blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine was approved in June, and as its name suggests is a vaccine for 20 serotypes — the original 13 plus seven more that cause pneumococcal disease. Pfizer used to spend heavily on TV ads to promote Prevnar 13 in 2018 and 2019 but cut back its TV budgets in the past two fall and winter seasonal spending cycles. Prevnar had been Pfizer’s top-selling drug, notching sales of just under $6 billion in 2020, and was the world’s top-selling vaccine before the Covid-19 vaccines came to market last year.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Roy Baynes, Merck

FDA bats back Mer­ck’s ‘pipeline in a prod­uct,’ de­mands more ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta

Despite some heavy blowback from analysts, Merck execs maintained an upbeat attitude about the market potential of its chronic cough drug gefapixant. But the confidence may be fading somewhat today as Merck puts out news that the FDA is handing back its application with a CRL.

Dubbed by Merck’s development chief Roy Baynes as a “pipeline in a product” with a variety of potential uses, Merck had fielded positive late-stage data demonstrating the drug’s ability to combat chronic cough. The drug dramatically reduced chronic cough in Phase III, but so did placebo, leaving Merck’s research team with a marginal success on the p-value side of the equation.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er fields a CRL for a $295M rare dis­ease play, giv­ing ri­val a big head start

Pfizer won’t be adding a new rare disease drug to the franchise club — for now, anyway.

The pharma giant put out word that their FDA application for the growth hormone therapy somatrogon got the regulatory heave-ho, though they didn’t even hint at a reason for the CRL. Following standard operating procedure, Pfizer said in a terse missive that they would be working with regulators on a followup.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Opin­ion: Flori­da is so mAb crazy, Ron De­San­tis wants to use mAbs that don't work

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying so hard to politicize the FDA and demonize the federal government that he entered into an alternate universe on Monday evening in describing a recent FDA action to restrict the use of two monoclonal antibody, or mAb, treatments for Covid-19 that don’t work against Omicron.

Without further ado, let’s break down his statement from last night, line by line, adjective by adjective.

Not cheap­er by the dozen: Bris­tol My­ers be­comes the 12th phar­ma com­pa­ny to re­strict 340B sales

Bristol Myers Squibb recently joined 11 of its peer pharma companies in limiting how many contract pharmacies can access certain drugs discounted by a federal program known as 340B.

Bristol Myers is just the latest in a series of high-profile pharma companies moving in their own direction as the Biden administration’s Health Resources and Services Administration struggles to rein in the drug discount program for the neediest Americans.

Joaquin Duato, J&J CEO (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

New J&J CEO Joaquin Du­a­to promis­es an ag­gres­sive M&A hunt in quest to grow phar­ma sales

Joaquin Duato stepped away from the sideline and directly into the spotlight on Tuesday, delivering his first quarterly review for J&J as its newly-tapped CEO after an 11-year run in senior posts. And he had some mixed financial news to deliver today while laying claim to a string of blockbuster drugs in the making and outlining an appetite for small and medium-sized M&A deals.

Duato also didn’t exactly shun large buyouts when asked about the future of the company’s medtech business — where they look to be in either the top or number 2 position in every segment they’re in — even though the bar for getting those deals done is so much higher.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 129,700+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.