Merck CEO Rob Davis

Mer­ck emerges as lead bid­der in po­ten­tial Ac­celeron buy­out with deal pos­si­ble this week — re­port

With ru­mors swirling about a po­ten­tial buy­out of biotech Ac­celeron and its lead PAH drug so­tater­cept, mar­ket watch­ers have been keep­ing close tabs on in­dus­try movers and shak­ers due up for an ex­pen­sive bolt-on. Ac­cord­ing to a new re­port, it ap­pears Mer­ck may be the one.

Mer­ck is in “ad­vanced talks” on a deal to ac­quire Cam­bridge, MA-based Ac­celeron in what pre­vi­ous re­ports pegged as a po­ten­tial $11 bil­lion buy­out, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­port­ed Mon­day. A deal could come as ear­ly as this week, ac­cord­ing to the Jour­nal.

Bris­tol My­ers Squibb, which holds an 11.5% stake in Ac­celeron, looked like the ear­ly leader in the club­house for a buy­out af­ter news of an ac­qui­si­tion land­ed last week. But Mer­ck, with a new man­age­ment team look­ing to make a ma­jor splash, may have pulled the rug out from un­der its Big Phar­ma com­peti­tor.

The pay­off here could be huge: So­tater­cept has turned out open-la­bel Phase II da­ta in PAH, a rare dis­ease char­ac­ter­ized by high blood pres­sure in the lungs, show­ing im­prove­ments across a broad range of out­comes, in­clud­ing peak oxy­gen up­take or VO2 max, as well as ven­ti­la­to­ry ef­fi­cien­cy, to­tal work­load and ar­te­ri­ove­nous oxy­gen con­tent. The drug al­so post­ed an ear­ly out­comes win in pa­tients’ six-minute walk test.

The re­sults, and an up­com­ing Phase III test, were good enough for SVB Leerink an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges to tap so­tater­cept as a po­ten­tial $3 bil­lion peak sell­er.

For Mer­ck, so­tater­cept could serve as a crown jew­el rare dis­ease drug as the phar­ma, best known for its megablock­buster I/O drug Keytru­da, looks to flesh out its pipeline with for­mer CEO Ken Fra­zier and R&D czar Roger Perl­mut­ter — the ar­chi­tect of Keytru­da’s suc­cess — now out the door.

For­mer op­er­a­tions lead Rob Davis is now in the CEO role with Dean Li, for­mer­ly the head of ear­ly dis­cov­ery R&D, tak­ing over Perl­mut­ter’s roost. In a call with an­a­lysts back in May, the new Mer­ck lead­er­ship team an­nounced its in­tent to lean heav­i­ly on busi­ness de­vel­op­ment in the com­ing years as it looks to press its ad­van­tage af­ter Keytru­da.

At the time, the fo­cus of those po­ten­tial ac­qui­si­tions was un­cer­tain, but rare dis­ease could now be a ma­jor fo­cal point mov­ing in­to the fu­ture. Let’s see what hap­pens this week.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Can a smart­phone app de­tect Covid? Pfiz­er throws down $116M to find out

What can a cough say about a patient’s illness? Quite a bit, according to ResApp Health — and Pfizer’s listening.

The pharma giant is shelling out about $116 million ($179 million AUD) to scoop up the University of Queensland spinout and its smartphone technology that promises to diagnose Covid and other respiratory illnesses based on cough and breathing sounds, the university announced last week.

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