Roche bags full con­trol of Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine in $2.4B fol­low-up buy­out

What­ev­er Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine has been do­ing since Roche threw its weight be­hind an R&D col­lab­o­ra­tion three years ago, both part­ners are lik­ing it. And now, Roche wants all of it, putting $2.4 bil­lion more on the ta­ble.

The val­u­a­tion of Cam­bridge, MA-based Foun­da­tion has grown quite a bit since Roche ac­quired a ma­jor­i­ty stake in Jan­u­ary 2015 at $50 a share — a hefty pre­mi­um then — with each share now cost­ing the Swiss phar­ma gi­ant $137. That’s 29% more than its clos­ing price on Mon­day. Roche’s as­sess­ment of the com­pa­ny val­ue: $5.3 bil­lion.

Daniel O’Day

With per­son­al­ized med­i­cine writ­ten all over it, this ac­qui­si­tion fol­lows that of Flat­iron, a tech start­up build­ing an elec­tron­ic health record sys­tem used by on­col­o­gists. There, Roche al­so bought a stake in the com­pa­ny and cul­ti­vat­ed a re­la­tion­ship be­fore swoop­ing in for a buy­out. And last De­cem­ber they swooped in to buy Igny­ta $RXDX for $1.7 bil­lion, putting the phar­ma gi­ant in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with Loxo On­col­o­gy $LOXO, with its work in ROS1 and NTRK fu­sion-pos­i­tive tu­mors.

While Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine does have an FDA-ap­proved di­ag­nos­tic called Foun­da­tionOne CDx, Roche is choos­ing to high­light its broad­er po­ten­tial in com­pre­hen­sive ge­nom­ic pro­fil­ing of can­cers, which can both guide de­vel­op­ment of treat­ments and match pa­tients with the ap­pro­pri­ate ther­a­pies. Mean­while, Roche has carved out a place for it­self in di­ag­nos­tics, in­vest­ing 12% of its en­tire R&D bud­get on the area.

“We will pre­serve FMI’s au­ton­o­my while sup­port­ing them in ac­cel­er­at­ing their progress,” said Daniel O’Day, CEO of Roche Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and for­mer di­ag­nos­tics chief, in a state­ment.

It’s a big win for Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine ex­ecs, who now get to op­er­ate as a “sep­a­rate and au­tonomous” unit.

Troy Cox

“Join­ing forces with Roche as an in­de­pen­dent op­er­at­ing com­pa­ny al­lows Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine to con­tin­ue its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Roche, as well as our bio­phar­ma part­ners, to dri­ve ubiq­ui­tous ac­cess to CGP test­ing and in­no­v­a­tive da­ta ser­vices,” said Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine CEO Troy Cox.

The deal is ex­pect­ed to close in sec­ond half of 2018. Citi and Davis Polk & Ward­well are the fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers and le­gal coun­sel to Roche, re­spec­tive­ly, while Gold­man Sachs and Good­win Proc­ter ad­vised and coun­seled for Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.