Part­ner­ing talks led to Bio­gen’s $800M Night­star buy­out as play­ers clus­tered around the hot deal ta­ble for gene ther­a­pies

Any­one look­ing for some in­sight in­to just how hot gene ther­a­pies have be­come should turn their at­ten­tion to­day to the be­hind-the-scenes ne­go­ti­a­tions that went in­to Bio­gen’s $800 mil­lion deal to buy Night­star Ther­a­peu­tics $NITE.

David Fel­lows, Night­star CEO

Over a pe­ri­od of 7 months, they held buy­out and part­ner­ing talks with 4 dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies be­fore Bio­gen $BI­IB emerged as the win­ner — or at least the last one at the ta­ble talk­ing M&A. Dur­ing that time, Night­star would paint a va­ri­ety of po­ten­tial fu­tures for it­self, topped by a bull ar­gu­ment that it could nail a $1.1 bil­lion prof­it on $1.2 bil­lion in sales come 2025.

The Night­star ac­qui­si­tion came just weeks af­ter Roche com­plet­ed its deal for Spark Ther­a­peu­tics, the US pi­o­neer in high-priced gene ther­a­pies and an­oth­er prime ex­am­ple that main­stream play­ers are in­creas­ing­ly ready to buy up gene ther­a­py as­sets in the clin­ic.

The prof­it fore­casts help tell the sto­ry.

Even on­ly a mod­er­ate suc­cess in Night­star’s books, ac­cord­ing to the proxy, would be close to $650 mil­lion at the peak, with $608 mil­lion in gross prof­it. And a bear case (which in­cludes mar­ket­ing ap­proval) scraped around the $400 mil­lion lev­el for sales and prof­its.

Even be­fore their IPO in the fall of 2017, a new SEC fil­ing re­veals, Bio­gen and a cou­ple of oth­er play­ers in the in­dus­try had been by to kick the tires and dis­cuss strate­gic part­ner­ing am­bi­tions with the ex­ec­u­tive team at Night­star. Those talks were pri­mar­i­ly about li­cens­ing NSR-REP1. Then in the sum­mer of last year things be­gan to heat up when CEO David Fel­lows field­ed a call from Par­ty A look­ing to do some due dili­gence on NSR-REP1 for choroi­deremia.

It was time to spread the word.

A few weeks lat­er, Night­star CFO Senthil Sun­daram had a sit-down with Bio­gen VP Daniel Karp to dis­cuss their mu­tu­al in­ter­est in gene ther­a­pies. Then David Mott, a gen­er­al part­ner at NEA and mem­ber of the board, was chat­ting about “gen­er­al strate­gic top­ics” when he picked up a sig­nal from a cer­tain Par­ty B that they had an in­ter­est in the port­fo­lio. Two months lat­er, yet an­oth­er group stepped up to dis­cuss oph­thal­mol­o­gy gene ther­a­py.

The first hard of­fer came in De­cem­ber, when Par­ty B an­ted up $20.50 a share — a 70% pre­mi­um over its price at the time. And with­in a few weeks Bio­gen, B and C were all giv­en the key to the elec­tron­ic da­ta room. Bio­gen fol­lowed up with a round of­fer of $19 to $21 a share, which opened the door on a sec­ond da­ta vault, even though they said it was still too low.

By ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, though, A, B and C were all on the out­side look­ing in, talk­ing about a col­lab­o­ra­tion in­stead. Bio­gen stuck with the buy­out talks, and came up with $25 a share.

How about $26.50, Night­star coun­tered. 

Bio­gen, though, would on­ly move to $25.50 on March 2. They closed the deal March 4.

Im­age: AP

Eli Casdin, Casdin Capital

Eli Cas­din backs Codex­is' plat­form tech with $50M eq­ui­ty buy

About a month af­ter Codex­is notched a deal with No­var­tis $NVS, the Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny $CDXS on Thurs­day said long-time in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal is putting up $50 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, which puts the New York-based in­vest­ment firm in con­trol of more than 5% of the pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing play­er’s stock.

Eli Cas­din start­ed his epony­mous in­vest­ment firm in 2012 and dates his re­la­tion­ship with Codex­is back to at least a decade. About three years ago, Cas­din Cap­i­tal be­gan in­vest­ing in the in­dus­tri­al biotech com­pa­ny, af­ter it piv­ot­ed its fo­cus to the life sci­ences — un­der the aus­pices of new chief John Nicols — away from the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

In­vestors pony up $476M for the lat­est round of biotech IPOs to hit the Street

Three biotechs — and a genome se­quenc­ing play­er — have caught the lat­est tide to the Gold Coast of IPOs, round­ing out the first half of 2019 with 23 new drug de­vel­op­ers mak­ing it on Nas­daq.

Most of these com­pa­nies filed their IPOs al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly, though we’re still wait­ing on word of fel­low class­mate Bridge­Bio’s pric­ing af­ter CEO Neil Ku­mar set the terms at $14 to $16 a share on Mon­day in search of a $240 mil­lion (or so) wind­fall. If he’s suc­cess­ful, that would take the one-week haul past the $700 mil­lion mark, a fresh sign that in­vestors’ en­thu­si­asm for new­ly coined pub­lic biotechs hasn’t cooled.

Brent Saunders at an Endpoints News event in 2017 — File photo

An­a­lyst call with Al­ler­gan ex­ecs stokes an­tic­i­pa­tion of a plan to split the com­pa­ny in ‘a month or two’

So what’s up at Al­ler­gan?

Ear­li­er this week the ubiq­ui­tous Ever­core ISI an­a­lyst Umer Raf­fat was on the line with com­pa­ny ex­ec­u­tives to probe in­to the lat­est on the num­bers as well as CEO Brent Saun­ders’ re­cent de­c­la­ra­tion that he’d be do­ing some­thing de­fin­i­tive to help long-suf­fer­ing in­vestors who have watched their shares dwin­dle in val­ue.

He came away with the im­pres­sion that a sig­nif­i­cant com­pa­ny split is on the way. And not on some dis­tant time hori­zon.

Robert Forrester, Verastem

Ve­rastem CEO For­rester steps to the ex­it as the board hunts com­mer­cial-savvy ex­ec for the be­lea­guered biotech

Robert For­rester is step­ping down as CEO of Ve­rastem On­col­o­gy $VSTM just 8 months af­ter the com­pa­ny nabbed an ap­proval for du­velis­ib, a PI3K drug with a sto­ried past — and what ap­pears as not much of a fu­ture.

The biotech put out word this morn­ing that For­rester will take an ad­vi­so­ry role with Ve­rastem while COO Dan Pa­ter­son steps up to take charge of the lead­er­ship team and the board looks around for a new CEO.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.
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The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Ken Frazier appears before the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing on prescription drug pricing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 26, 2019. Chris Kleponis for CNP via AP Images

Who’s next in line to suc­ceed Ken Fra­zier as CEO of the Keytru­da-blessed Mer­ck?

When Merck waved off a looming forced retirement for Ken Frazier last September, the board cited flexibility in CEO transition as a key factor in the decision. Having Frazier — who’s also chairman of the company — around beyond his 65th birthday in 2019 would ensure they install the best person at the best time, they said.

The board has evidently begun that process with a clear preference for internal candidates, sources told Bloomberg. CFO Robert Davis, chief marketing officer Michael Nally, and chief commercial officer Frank Clyburn are all in the running, according to an insider.

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