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

Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO

UP­DAT­ED: An­a­lysts are quick to pan Eli Lil­ly's puz­zling first cut of pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta for its Covid-19 an­ti­body

Eli Lilly spotlighted a success for one of 3 doses of their closely-watched Covid-19 antibody drug Wednesday morning. But analysts quickly highlighted some obvious anomalies that could come back to haunt the pharma giant as it looks for an emergency use authorization to launch marketing efforts.

The pharma giant reported that LY-CoV555, developed in collaboration with AbCellera, significantly reduced the rate of hospitalization among patients who were treated with the antibody. The drug arm of the study had a 1.7% hospitalization rate, compared to 6% in the control group, marking a 72% drop in risk.

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Stronger to­geth­er? Boehringer and Mi­rati team to put first KRAS-KRAS com­bo in the clin­ic

Researchers are still waiting to see how much any of the vaunted KRAS drugs now in the clinic can, after decades of preclinical research and some early human studies, help patients. But while they do, two of the leading developers will look to see whether a KRAS-KRAS combo might pose a better shot than any KRAS alone.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Mirati have signed a collaboration to combine Mirati’s closely-watched lead KRAS inhibitor, MRTX849, in a clinical trial with the pan-KRAS blocker that Boehringer has quietly developed with high expectations behind their flashier contenders.

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#ES­MO20: Alk­er­mes of­fers their first snap­shot of a ben­e­fit for their next-gen IL-2 drug. But why did 1 pa­tient starve to death?

Everyone in the cancer R&D arena is looking to build new franchises around better drugs and combos. And one busy pocket of that space is centered entirely on creating an IL-2 drug that can be as effective as the original without the toxicity that damned it to the sidelines.

Alkermes $ALKS formally tossed its hat into the ring of contenders at virtual ESMO today, highlighting the first glimpse of efficacy for their candidate, ALKS 4230, as both a monotherapy as well as in combination with Merck’s Keytruda.

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Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er match­es Mod­er­na with their full Covid-19 tri­al blue­print — As­traZeneca says it will un­veil its pro­to­col 'short­ly'

Yesterday, after sustained public pressure as Moderna released its Phase III Covid-19 trial blueprint, Pfizer released its own full trial design for their vaccine trials. The move was designed to boost transparency and shore up public trust in the vaccines, but it also revealed differences in how the two companies are approaching the much-watched studies while failing to satisfy the demands of the fiercest advocates for transparency.

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#ES­MO20: Re­gen­eron, Sanofi eye an­oth­er first for their PD-1 con­tender Lib­tayo with promis­ing da­ta for on­col­o­gy niche

Regeneron and Sanofi took another step forward in the long march towards a greatly expanded market for their late-bloomer PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo.

The two occasional allies posted an objective response rate of 31% for Libtayo among 84 patients suffering from advanced cases of basal cell carcinoma at virtual ESMO. That spotlights progress for 26 patients, 5 of whom had a complete response. The data also reflect a boost in the number of responses seen from the last cut of the numbers.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Pfiz­er ex­ecs con­fi­dent­ly tap their top 10 block­busters-to-be. But what are the chances of sur­viv­ing PhI­II, let alone hit­ting these big peak sales es­ti­mates?

Pfizer’s top executive team doesn’t lack for confidence.

Where many Big Pharmas would be reluctant to put a peak sales figure on their late-stage drugs, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has shrugged off the usual diffidence to outline where the pharma giant expects to get $15 billion-plus.

The list, outlined this week during their investor presentations, is topped by 3 drugs in the $3 billion-plus peak sales category. They are:

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (Autolus)

#ES­MO20: Au­to­lus pro­vides glimpse of next-gen­er­a­tion CAR-T pro­gram, show­ing ear­ly pos­i­tive safe­ty da­ta

CAR-T therapies were hailed as a breakthrough when Novartis received the first FDA approval for Kymriah back in 2017. Though highly effective at treating certain types of blood cancers, CAR-Ts are also associated with severe and potentially deadly side effects, including lethal instances of cytokine release syndrome.

With this in mind, Autolus Therapeutics is looking to take a crack at a safer CAR-T and presented Phase II cohort data for its AUTO3 program at virtual ESMO 2020. The data showed that, among the 35 patients in the cohort being treated for r/r diffuse large B cell lymphoma, there were no instances of Grade 3 or higher CRS. Eight individuals saw Grade 1 inflammation while another four patients reached Grade 2.

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Sean Bo­hen's break from bio­phar­ma is over. The ex-As­traZeneca CMO has re­tired his Big Phar­ma jer­sey and is now — hap­pi­ly — run­ning a lit­tle biotech

The last I had heard about Sean Bohen, he had stepped out of his high-profile job as chief medical officer at AstraZeneca at the beginning of 2019 as CEO Pascal Soriot triggered a broad-ranging R&D shakeup. And then, earlier this week, I got a chance to catch up.

It turns out that Bohen decided at the time that he would not just jump into a new job in the booming biopharma business. As an oncologist, he had worked on the big programs at AstraZeneca, and before that he was at Genentech. That was good for a ticket to just about anyplace in the big biopharma world. But he felt it was time to stop and think things through.

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Covid-19 roundup: UP­DAT­ED: Amid calls for trans­paren­cy, Mod­er­na re­leas­es full PhI­II pro­to­col; As­traZeneca tri­al halt thought to be 'con­firmed trans­verse myelitis,' per CNN

Prominent scientists, public health experts and industry critics have been calling for more transparency from vaccine makers, including the release of the companies’ Phase III trial protocols. On Thursday, Moderna became the first major developer to do so.

“It is usually not what industry does,” CEO Stéphane Bancel told Endpoints News in an interview in advance of their R&D day today. “But given the need there is for the scientific community and the medical community and the media to understand how the vaccine is being developed, to make sure people are confident in the safety of the process, in the governance with scientific independence in the medical world and the like, we’re dropping tomorrow the full protocol. It is unredacted.”

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