Unacom Pharma News

24th June – 28th June 

Monday 24th June

Merck and Co set to acquire Tilos Therapeutics, bolstering immunotherapy division

Merck and Co will acquire Tilos Therapeutics, a privately held biopharma company specializing in novel immunotherapies, paying up to $773m. This move by Merck will further improve its immunotherapy division after the success of its blockbuster drug Keytruda. This acquisition follows a trend in Merck’s R&D tactics as this purchase follows a string of other mid-size purchases of OncoEthix, ImmunoDesign and Peloton as it seeks to find the next generation of immunotherapy products.
Tilos Therapeutics expertise lies in targeting the latent TGFβ complex, which plays a role not only in cancer, but also fibrosis and autoimmune diseases. Merck will acquire all outstanding shares of Tilos leading to consideration costs up to $773m as well as further upfront costs and milestone payments.

Shingrix helps to lift GSK in Q1, as two more vaccines are dropped 

Following CEO’s Emma Walmsley’s pledge to only focus on products with promise, GSK has abandoned two new projects consisting of influenza and pneumonia vaccines. Since Emma Walmsley has taken over, GSK has already shed over a third of its pipeline projects.
Focusing on the present, shingles vaccine Shingrix continues to perform exceptionally well, with the vaccine set to make more than $1bn in sales this year. There was also strong performance in its ViiV HIV unit,  with future releases of a first time ever once-a-day two-drug regimen Dovato hopefully setting a trend of success for GSK in 2019.

Tuesday 25th June

BMS set to offload blockbuster Otezla to ease regulators merger concerns

Bristol Myers Squibb has announced plans to sell of Celgene's psoriasis blockbuster drug Otezla, as a step towards gaining approval from regulators for its $74bn merger with Celgene.
The regulators have been very clear early on with their concerns about this potential merger, with issues arising that this merged company will have an overly dominant position in the psoriasis market. BMS has in its pipeline a tyrosine kinase 2 inhibitor which if combined with Celgene’s Otezla, will give the company too big off a share in the market.
BMS has proposed this sell off and is waiting for the verdict from the US Federal Trade Commission. Even if BMS gets approval, the merger will be delayed passing through at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020.
The proposed merger has not had an easy route, with rebel stakeholder activists objecting to the deal saying it’s not in the company’s best interest, with Celgene’s blockbuster Revlimid, accounting for two ,third of the company’s sales set to go, off patent within the next few years.
BMS has said that this divestment of Otezla to a big pharma company should fetch billions and will help to pay off the debts related to the acquisition much faster.

EMA approves Novo Nordisks, haemophilia A drug

Novo Nordisk has gained EU approval for its long acting new haemophilia A treatment, Esperoct, with hopes from Novo that this drug will prop up their blood disorder unit. Esperoct is a follow up to Novo Nordisks, NovoEight product and allows for patients to inject themselves once every four days rather than once every day or three times a week.
Analysts forecast that sales of Esperoct will peak at $284m in 2025, compared to NovoEights sales of $205m last year.
However, Novo Nordisk is entering a crowded market with Sanofi, Takeda’s Shire unit and Bayer already having products on the market. Meanwhile, Roches fast growing Hemlibra is set to disrupt the market putting pressure on replacement products like Esperoct. 

Wednesday 26th June

AbbVie to acquire Allergan for $63bn

With AbbVie’s blockbuster drug Humira set to face a US patent expiry, this news of an acquisition does not come as a surprise. The $63bn buyout is a 45% premium on Allergan’s market cap, driven up by investors who were expecting big news this week.
AbbVie says this deal will diversify its business into new therapeutic areas, particularly in Allergan’s medical aesthetic division, with its notable product Botox bringing in $3.7bn in revenue last year.
Vital to this deal will be the cutbacks that will inevitably occur, with the major cost saving expected to occur in the R&D division, with Allergan and AbbVie having overlapping R&D resources. With both companies having set up a presence in biotech hub Cambridge, it can be expected that Allergan’s hub will be closed down.
The deal is set to come through in early 2020, but if the BMS and Celgene deal has taught us anything is that there undoubtedly will be resistance from shareholders.

Thursday 27th June

BMS reports failure for its cancer immunotherapy drug Opdivo

This bad news follows the recent announcement that BMS will divest Celgene’s blockbuster drug Otezla to get the Celgene merger through regulators.  As a result BMS shares have fallen by 7.4%, this is too no big of a surprise after the divestment, delay in deal and now this failure of Opdivo, modelled at being worth $1bn in sales for the brand.
Opdivos failure is a result of it failing to improve Overall Survival (OS) to a statistically significant level compared to rivals Bayer’s targeted cancer drug Nexavar (a drug which has not been improved upon in 10yrs) in patients with previously untreated liver cancer. This does however give BMS hope that a combination therapy including Opdido could improve on Nexavar.

Friday 28th June 2019

Stoke Therapeutics raises $140m in IPO
US based ‘missing protein’ biotech firm has raised $142m to advance its pipeline of drugs that aim to restore missing protein expression in genetic diseases.
Around $39m of the total will be used to accelerate its lead candidate STK-001 into a phase three trial for Dravet syndrome. A rare form of epilepsy that is caused by the mutation in the SCN1A gene that leads to the loss of sodium ion channels.
Stoke uses its therapeutic TANGO approach, which is an antisense drug that operates by upregulating the production of messenger RNA which in turn produces proteins. Stoke therapeutics says its antisense drugs can increase the levels of functional mRNA, restoring protein production to ‘near normal levels’ and tackling the cause of the disease.
An additional $37m will go into R&D for additional TANGO candidates, Stoke has said that it has found 2900 single gene diseases that could be treated by its antisense treatments.

Alexion’s Solaris gains new FDA approval in rare disease NMOSD

The FDA approved blockbuster Solaris to treat autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, NMSOD. This would be the first FDA approved treatment for this disease. NMSOD disproportionately affects young women, with African American women over-represented as patients in the US.
Solaris had revenue hit $3.56bn last year, it has had its patent extended to 2027 in the US, giving Alexion longer to ramp up sales of its successor treatment Ultomiris.

Coranavirus and its relationship with IP exclusivity

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