The top 9 over­seas ac­counts in bio­phar­ma hold $133B in M&A fire­pow­er

Pic­tured (L-R): Stephen Ubl, CEO PhRMA; Ken Fra­zier, CEO Mer­ck; Robert Hug­in, Cel­gene chair­man; Robert Brad­way, CEO Am­gen on Jan­u­ary 31, 2017 at the White House af­ter meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Trump. An­drew Har­rer/Bloomberg via Get­ty

Dur­ing Am­gen’s Q1 dis­cus­sion with an­a­lysts on Wednes­day evening, CEO Bob Brad­way re­peat­ed one of the key themes in the land of Big Bio­phar­ma. Biotech val­u­a­tions are high, he not­ed, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ac­quire the kind of drug as­sets he’d like to lay his hands on.

But. Tax re­form could make M&A eas­i­er for Am­gen.

And why is that? Says Brad­way:

We’ve long ad­vo­cat­ed the need for cor­po­rate tax re­form. If in­no­v­a­tive U.S. com­pa­nies are to re­main com­pet­i­tive, we need a lev­el tax play­ing field. We don’t have one now, but we’re hope­ful this ad­min­is­tra­tion will de­liv­er that in 2017. Ob­vi­ous­ly, we think such change would im­prove our flex­i­bil­i­ty for cap­i­tal al­lo­ca­tion.

Am­gen has been shel­ter­ing a cache of about $35 bil­lion in ex-US ac­counts, ac­cord­ing to some num­bers that Ever­cor­eISI’s Umer Raf­fat put to­geth­er as he be­gan as­sess­ing the im­pact tax re­form could have on the top play­ers in over­seas hold­ings.

Raf­fat’s quick­ly as­sem­bled top 10 — based on fil­ings and con­ver­sa­tions with ex­ecs, re­arranged by or­der of ex-US hold­ings — add up to rough­ly $133 bil­lion. That’s enough to fu­el quite a few ac­qui­si­tions.

A year ago, by the way, a num­ber of sto­ries in the fi­nan­cial press cit­ed Pfiz­er for hold­ing $80 bil­lion in over­seas ac­counts. But this gives you an idea of some of the cash that would be avail­able to the big US play­ers if tax re­form al­lowed for quick repa­tri­a­tion.

Sweep­ing tax re­form, though, may be even hard­er to do than health­care re­form. But you’ll note that there are sev­er­al com­pa­nies on this list that have in­di­cat­ed that they are hunt­ing deals, par­tic­u­lar­ly Am­gen, Gilead, Pfiz­er and Bio­gen. At Cel­gene, the deal pace has been con­stant for years now.

So far, 2017 has been some­thing of a dis­ap­point­ment in the M&A world. Maybe some of these com­pa­nies are just hold­ing fire, though, to see how the land­scape changes in the next few weeks.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

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.

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.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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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.