Will some pent-up deal pres­sure amp up a biotech ral­ly?

Over the last 6 weeks we’ve seen the Nas­daq biotech in­dex surge 21%, an ear­ly-stage com­pa­ny just up­sized its IPO and stuck to the range, sec­ondary of­fer­ings are do­ing bet­ter and a whole slate of big biotechs and phar­mas have made it plain that they’re hunt­ing for sig­nif­i­cant new deals be­fore the end of this year.

It’s the kind of en­vi­ron­ment that has peren­ni­al en­thu­si­asts cheer­ing a ral­ly that the in­dus­try hopes has legs need­ed to con­tin­ue past the dog days of sum­mer. And it has some big im­pli­ca­tions for the deal teams bar­ter­ing over biotech as­sets.

While Medi­va­tion $MD­VN is def­i­nite­ly in play, ru­mors abound that big out­fits like As­traZeneca $AZN and Bio­gen $BI­IB con­tin­ue to at­tract takeover in­ter­est. Most buy­ers these days, though, are look­ing to fol­low up on strate­gies adopt­ed by the likes of Al­ler­gan or Gilead. Al­ler­gan likes bit-sized deals – “step­ping stones,” if you ask CEO Brent Saun­ders — tar­get­ing late-stage as­sets that fit neat­ly in­to its core de­vel­op­ment ar­eas. Gilead has been stalk­ing li­cens­ing ef­forts that re­quire big up­front pay­ments. Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV may have set the stan­dard on over-ea­ger­ness when it paid $9.8 bil­lion for Stem­cen­trx in April. And Bio­gen ex­ecs have been talk­ing about deals for a sol­id year now.

But big game hunts have been sparse, more smoke than fire.

Val­u­a­tions, of course, are still well off the heights scaled a year ago, which may al­so help con­cen­trate ef­forts at the deal ta­ble. But they’re climb­ing, al­low­ing com­pa­nies like Bio­Marin (al­so reg­u­lar­ly fea­tured in the ru­mor mill) to raise more mon­ey. If sell­ers have more op­tions than tak­ing any­thing that’s put on the ta­ble, that can on­ly dri­ve deal val­ues fur­ther north.

For all the con­stant chat­ter about M&A, though, the re­al­i­ty is that plung­ing stocks have yet to trig­ger a much dis­cussed wave of ac­qui­si­tions.

Dealog­ic tracked $45 bil­lion in U.S. phar­ma and biotech M&A in the first half, a first-half low we haven’t seen since 2012, when the biotech boom was just start­ing to take off.

An­oth­er bit of food for thought: EP Van­tage just list­ed the most valu­able as­sets in the pipeline, based on sell-side analy­sis, top­ping it with Ax­o­vant’s $AX­ON late-stage drug for Alzheimer’s. In-li­censed from Glax­o­SmithK­line for $5 mil­lion in cash plus promis­es of more if it makes the grade, the bil­lions in val­ue at­trib­uted to such high-risk ef­forts un­der­scores that there may not be as many great deals avail­able as you might be­lieve.

As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Fabrice Chouraqui, Cellarity CEO-partner (LinkedIn)

Drug de­vel­op­er, Big Phar­ma com­mer­cial ex­ec, now an up­start biotech chief — Fab­rice Chouraqui is ready to try some­thing new as a ‘CEO-part­ner’ at Flag­ship

Fabrice Chouraqui’s career has taken some big twists along his life journey. He got his PharmD at Université Paris Descartes and jumped into the drug development game for a bit. Then he took a sharp turn and went back to school to get his MBA at Insead before returning to pharma on the commercial side.

Twenty years later, after steadily rising through the ranks and journeying the globe to nab a top job as president of US pharma for the Basel-based Novartis, Chouraqui exited in another career switch. And now he’s headed into a hybrid position as a CEO-partner at Flagship, where he’ll take a shot at leading Cellarity — one of the VC’s latest paradigm-changing companies of the groundbreaking model that aspires to deliver a new platform to the world of drug R&D.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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As­traZeneca’s $7B ADC suc­ceeds where Roche failed, im­prov­ing sur­vival in gas­tric can­cer

Another day, another win for Enhertu.

The antibody-drug conjugate AstraZeneca promised up-to $7 billion to partner on has had a quite a few months, beginning with splashy results in a Phase II breast cancer trial, a rapid approval and, earlier this month, breakthrough designations in both non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer.

Now, at ASCO, the British pharma and their Japanese partner, Daiichi Sankyo, have shown off the data that led to the gastric cancer designation, which they’ll take back to the FDA. In a pivotal, 187-person Phase II trial, Enhertu shrunk tumors in 42.9% of third-line patients with HER2-positive stomach cancer, compared with 12.5% in a control arm where doctors prescribed their choice of therapy. Progression-free survival was 5.4 months for Enhertu compared to 3.5 months for the control.

Once a gem, now just a rock, Take­da punts PhI­II IBD drug as ri­vals mus­cle ahead

Back in 2016, when then-Shire CEO Flemming Ørnskov picked up a promising clinical-stage IBD drug from Pfizer, the Boston-based biotech dubbed it SHP647 and moved it into the gem section of the pipeline, with rosy expectations of registration-worthy Phase III data ahead.

This was a drug that the EC wanted Takeda to commit to selling off before it gave their blessing to its acquisition of Shire, to settle some deep-seated concerns revolving around the potential market overlap with their blockbuster rival Entyvio. And Takeda, which took on a heavy debt load to buy Shire, clearly wanted the cash to pay down debt.