Biotech Roundup: JPM Deals, Gender Diversity, PCSK9 Battle & More

Xconomy National — 

[Corrected, 1/14/16, see below] This past week, the biopharma industry made its annual January pilgrimage to San Francisco for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. 2016 was a whirlwind year in biotech, and the biopharma gods rewarded attendees with a multi-day monsoon to slog through to get from one meeting to the next.

Earlier today, Alex Lash and I offered a few tidbits from our notebooks—more to come later. But here are many of the other headlines to emerge from J.P. Morgan, where companies across the industry try to put their best foot forward with new deals and more.

Pricing, Trump, PCSK9 Battle, and Diversity

—Drug pricing was on many people’s minds at J.P. Morgan, including Allergan (NYSE: AGN) CEO Brent Saunders, who talked about yearly price hikes, price transparency, and more with Alex Lash.

—Just days after Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) lost a patent infringement suit to rival Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) over its cholesterol-lowering PCSK9 blocker alirocumab (Praluent)—a ruling that threatens to pull Regeneron’s drug from the market—CEO Len Schleifer railed against the Thousand Oaks, CA, company’s tactics. “If they really cared about patients they wouldn’t rip this drug from patients,” he said, according to a Reuters report. Regeneron plans to appeal the decision.

—Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) CEO Ed Kaye detailed the early launch trajectory for eteplirsen (Exondys 51), which last year became the first-ever approved drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy but has faced pushback from insurers.

—The frenzy of J.P. Morgan meetings came to a screeching halt on Wednesday when President-elect Donald Trump slammed drug companies, saying they were “getting away with murder” because of the prices they charge.

—More than 100 life sciences leaders signed a letter calling on the biopharma industry to boost its efforts to increase gender diversity.

Deals, Deals, Deals

—Takeda Pharmaceutical bought Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA) in an all-cash deal that values the Cambridge, MA-based cancer drug developer at about $5.2 billion.

—Just days later, Takeda entered a five-year, $125 million partnership with Brisbane, CA-based immuno-oncology startup Maverick Therapeutics and got an exclusive right to buy the company at the end of the deal.

—Cambridge-based Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MACK) sold off its only marketed products, two cancer drugs, to French pharma company Ipsen for $575 million up front.

—Milwaukee-based medtech company Mortara Instrument was acquired by Hill-Rom Holdings for $330 million.

—Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX) sold four experimental cancer drugs to Merck KGaA for $230 million in cash.

—[An earlier version of this item mistakenly said Allergan paid $50 million for an option to acquire Lysosomal Therapeutics; terms weren’t disclosed. We regret the error.] Allergan announced two deals. It nabbed an option to acquire Cambridge startup Lysosomal Therapeutics, which is developing drugs for Parkinson’s disease, for an undisclosed sum; and paid $50 million to Indianapolis-based Assembly Biosciences for rights to two experimental microbiome drugs for gastrointestinal disorders

—Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) paid Swiss firm Anokion $45 million up front in a deal to develop treatments for autoimmune diseases. Celgene also has an exclusive option to buy the biotech in the future.

—AbbVie detailed a group of collaborations focused on large-scale genomic sequencing efforts and immuno-oncology. Here’s more from FierceBiotech.

—Sarepta inked two different deals with Nationwide Children’s Hospital for rights to two experimental Duchenne gene therapies. Terms weren’t disclosed.

mRNA Ups and Downs

—High-flying, yet secretive messenger RNA drug developer Moderna Therapeutics gave J.P. Morgan attendees the most detailed look yet at its evolving drug pipeline, which largely consists of experimental vaccines for infectious diseases and cancer. STAT reports that safety issues caused the company to dump what was once its lead program, however, for the rare disease Crigler-Najjar syndrome.

—Rival mRNA drug developer CureVac, with offices in Germany and Cambridge, said that its mRNA prostate cancer vaccine, CV9104, failed a Phase 2 trial. Here’s more from


—Former Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) CEO George Scangos is back in the Bay Area, where he’s leading newly launched Vir Biotechnology, a startup researching new treatments for infectious disease. Arch Venture Partners has committed at least $150 million to the effort.

—San Francisco pain drug developer Adynxx raised a $16 million Series B round to start another Phase 2 clinical trial for its lead drug, AYXI.

And in other news…

—Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) announced plans to open its latest “JLabs” biotech incubator at the New York Genome Center in Manhattan. JLabs head Melinda Richter spoke with Xconomy at J.P. Morgan about the planned incubator, which will be funded by some of the cash from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $650 million state biotech initiative.

—The FDA declined to approve the intravenous version of Waltham, MA-based Tesaro’s (NASDAQ: TSRO) anti-nausea drug rolapitant, citing manufacturing concerns.

—Boulder, CO-based Nivalis Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NVLS) said CEO John Congleton will step down and it will ax 80 percent of its staff in a restructuring.

—Oliver Smithies, a Nobel laureate and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor of pathology, died Tuesday at 91 following a short illness, according to the university.

Frank Vinluan contributed to this report