Bristol-Myers Squibb has started off the 2019 season of M&A with a huge proposal: buying the biotech Celgene in a $74B deal. If completed, it would be the largest pharma acquisition to date, blowing the previous-record holder—Takeda’s pending Shire acquisition for $62B—out of the water. Both companies are oncology giants, specifically in immunology and blood cancers, but BMS will be acquiring a decent amount of risk with the purchase. Celgene’s market cap has gone down $70B in the past 14 months partly due to poor financial forecasts for when the company’s top drug Revlimid loses patent protection. BMS likely hopes to make that up with six possible product launches in the next few years. Okay, enough numbers. To round out this New Jersey-focused blurb, here’s some New Jersey would-you-rathers.
How about some exciting, multi-billion dollar deals to spice up the first quarter? First, Sanofi acquired Bioverativ, a hemophilia-focused biopharmaceutical company that spun out of Biogen last February. Since losing patent protection, Sanofi has seen flagging revenue from their flagship Lantus products—which occupy the #4 and #15 spots on IQVIA’s list of Top Medicines by Invoice Spending—and they’re hoping Bioverativ can give their treatment portfolio a boost. Similarly, Celgene boosted their pipeline prospects by acquiring Juno Therapeutics, who have a promising CAR-T candidate expected to be FDA-approved in 2019. Celgene also recently bought Impact Biomedicines, all part of a strategy to preemptively address profit losses when their blood cancer drug Revlimid goes off-patent in a few years.
And soon it starts to add up. This week the NIH announced a pretty cool partnership with the private pharma industry. The Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies (PACT) is a five-year public-private research collaboration totaling $215 million as part of the Cancer Moonshot project. 11 pharma companies (AbbVie, Amgen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer) will contribute $1M each for five years. The NIH will contribute $160 million. The goal: “to identify, develop and validate robust biomarkers — standardized biological markers of disease and treatment response — to advance new immunotherapy treatments.” Sweet. If you want to read what pharma PR folks have been up to you can read their responses here. For the top 10 private-public immuno-oncology collaborations, look here.
Maybe not Daddy Warbucks, but the Celgene/Agios acute myeloid leukemia drug (IDHIFA, AG-221) has a lot going for it. The drug: passed priority FDA review after just Phase I/II data; uses Abbott’s RealTime™ IDH2 companion diagnostic test; was approved weeks ahead of the PDUFA date; has an orphan designation; oh, and it has a monthly wholesale acquisition cost of $24,872. Also, if you had invested in Agios six months ago, your investment would have retuned ~42%. Not too shabby. This is good news for Celgene and Agios, but it is also potentially great news for people who suffer from acute myeloid leukemia with the IDH2 mutation. Here is an infographic on AML. The next step? Let’s see what payer formularies say about the price.
The answer is Beau. How do we know? Because the Cancer Moonshot has been renamed the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot” in honor of the VP’s late son who died from brain cancer. Armed with $1.8B in funding, VP Biden recently gave an update on the project. One highlight is how the National Cancer Institute created the Genomic Data Commons, which archives cancer patient data using Amazon’s cloud computing software. Researchers have accessed this information about 80 million times, so that is a lot. In another initiative, companies like AZ, Novartis, Pfizer, and Celgene, just to name a few, are contributing to the Blood Profiling Atlas in Cancer (BloodPAC) consortium. Go team.
Cancer…the c-word is cancer. Grail, a Silicon Valley startup, is developing a blood test similar to a liquid biopsy that works proactively to spot cancer. According to Business Insider, the goal is to “identify the tiny bits of cancer DNA that are hanging out in our blood but are now undetectable.” A test like that will take time, massive clinical trials and, of course, money. Lucky for them, Grail just raised more than $900M in funding from big names like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, McKesson Ventures, Merck, Tencent Holdings Limited, Varian Medical Systems, and even Amazon. Who knows, maybe Prime members can get test results delivered to their front door in less than two business days.