The Brent Saunders way: Allergan pays $95M for its next stepping stone to a bigger pipeline

Allergan has picked up another one of its “stepping stone” acquisitions. The deal-hungry company bagged ForSight VISION5 and its glaucoma technology for a $95 million upfront and an unspecified launch milestone.

Brent Saunders, Allergan

Brent Saunders, Allergan

In return for its money Allergan gets a new tech – a preservative-free bimatoprost ocular insert – that has passed its Phase II challenge in proving its ability to reliably lower intraocular pressure for a period of time. It’s being set up as a therapy for patients who have a hard time with eye drop remedies. And Allergan will be buying the Menlo Park, CA-based biotech as it sits on the threshold of Phase III – which is its sweet spot in R&D.

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders has inked a string of these deals since the Pfizer acquisition collapsed in the face of new tax rules. He started with a $125 million upfront to license rights to a portfolio of neuroscience drugs from Heptares. He followed up a few days later with a deal to buy Topokine and its cosmetic drug for $85 million up front. And in the ForSight pact he’s also adding to a piece of the pipeline where the company also has a well established presence in the market.

Now that he’s finished the deal to sell off a generics group to Teva, Saunders has a large pile of cash to do a multitude of these kinds of buyouts. He likes late-stage programs that have clearly passed a mid-stage challenge, waiting for developers to confirm the data in a pivotal study. Megamergers with the likes of Biogen or some other kind of splashy pact? Definitely not part of the plan.

Here’s Saunders from the last quarterly call with analysts:

Look, I said this at our last quarter call. I reiterated it in the script. I’ll say it again now. Allergan doesn’t need to do any big M&A. We have a very strong commercial business around the world with great growth prospects and lots of durability. We have a strong pipeline, many of which are late-stage and game-changing potential programs. And we are building leadership in every area, the seven in which we compete. So our focus is on stepping-stones. We are going to look to continue to bolster our therapeutic leadership and to continue to look for true innovation through our Open Science model. We are not looking at and we are not focused on any large transformational M&A. We are focused on stepping stones.

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