January 29, 2011 · Filed Under Acquisitions, Anemia, Cancer, Cardiac, dendreon, Diabetes, Heart, Infections, M&A, obesity, R&D, Rumor · 1 Comment 

The game of predicting mergers and acquisitions in the biotech and in pharma sectors is not a new one.  The talk heats up, then it dies down.  A deal comes, followed by another deal, and the activity goes quiet.  This next week is likely to have at least more chatter in the biohealth sector for possible mergers and acquisitions after Barron’s gave a cover story called “The New Doctor in the House: Consolidation.”

Barron’s noted that “as big drug firms buy up smaller, specialty outfits and their most innovative products, better pipelines and sales-force efficiency will boost profits.”  Here is the thing to consider: Barron’s did not really offer anything new or ground-breaking this weekend.  It will have rekindled some hope that M&A is coming in the space.  At issue: pipeline fatigue.  A note we’d throw in as well, dead-dead stocks.  We are going to at least address some of the Barron’s roster, but we want to show you many others which are just as or even more likely acquisition targets.  Some of ours have even been in-play before.

Barron’s threw in Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Pfizer, Inc. (NYSE: PFE) as the largest of the Big Pharma players and it threw out biohealth names with stock-market values below $10 billion:

  • Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALXN) with a $7.5 billion value after a hueg run-up;
  • Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ: DNDN) for Provenge for prostate cancer (and future cancers) with a $5 billion market value today;
  • Human Genome Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) for its Benlysta in patients with severe active lupus nephritis and CNS lupus and a $4.5 billion market cap;
  • Cephalon, Inc. (NASDAQ: CEPH) is one we have rarely looked as since things quieted down there;
  • United Therapeutics Corporation (NASDAQ: UTHR) for its treat pulmonary arterial hypertension and an almost-$4 billion value;
  • Cadence Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CADX) was noted for its pain medication without the addiction aspects of morphine and its value is only $369 million;
  • AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMAG) was called a value stock despite its recent weak sales and despite its cash burn with a $368 million market cap.

Much of the biotech M&A game hinges on Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY) in its chase to acquire Genzyme Corporation (NASDAQ: GENZ).  The latest talk is that a work-out could come to $80 all-in if certain milestones were achieved but the deal is still south of there officially.  As noted above, we have our own opinions on which biotech companies and drug companies could find their way into the hands of a larger acquirer.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is likely to continue being an acquirer.  The company recently announced a deal worth potentially $1 billion to acquire privately-held BioVex.  Last year the company said it was aggressively looking for new targets and its $52 billion market cap is the largest of all the independent biotechs in America. The company has more tricks up its sleeve.

Beckman Coulter Inc. (NYSE: BEC) went into play in early December with private equity firms being the likely acquirers of the portfolio of biomedical testing equipment and supplies.  We argued at the time of the premium that it seemed shares fully reflected that value, and shares are actually lower now.

And don’t forget Sangamo Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ: SGMO), where shares rallied in November on rumors of a potential bid interest from Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY).  It had good news on ZFP Therapeutic program to develop SB-509, a zinc finger protein transcriptional activator (ZFP-TF) of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A gene as a treatment for ALS and the news flow has continued to propel shares higher.  It went above $4.50 on the rumors but now shares trade at $7.39.  The market cap is still low here at $334 million.

Allos Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ALTH) has been another name floated out there for M&A possibilities, but things are looking less and less bright for the company.  Shares hit a 52-week low just on Friday.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CBST) has not really gone anywhere as it is deemed a mature company, but it is one we thought for sure that would find its way into being part of a larger company.  Its Cubicin is on the market and it fights severe hospital-induced infections and the market cap is $1.3 billion here.

VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) remains a wild card due to the FDA.  Diet and weight-loss pills have not been given any real love by the FDA.  The exception here is that Qnexa does have serious benefits.  There are side effects, particularly in cases of pregnancy.  We would ask this though: How many pregnant and soon-to-be-pregnant women really diet?  Most doctors don’t even want pregnant women taking supplements, let alone drugs.  IF the FDA approves Qnexa, that $680 million market cap may be worth far more.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (NASDAQ: TEVA)… We have also noted Teva’s mega-cap ambitions, and making more acquisitions would generally get there.

Last year, Morningstar put out a list of three favorites that it sees as acquisition targets in the biohealth space: Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AUXL), Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX).  FULL ARTICLE

This should at least give you a better and more concise list of possible deals and deal-makers for 2011.  Just remember this, regardless of what Barron’s or other media outlets try to tell you: not all biotechs have to be acquired, not at all.


More Buyouts In Biotech? (AUXL, HGSI, VRTX)

May 10, 2010 · Filed Under analyst calls, M&A · Comment 

Everyone is looking for the next or the next to the next biotech and BioHealth merger candidate.  Just a day after being worried about major financial losses all over again….  Morningstar has listed this week three of its favorite buyout targets in biotech from its pool of large pharmaceuticals, devices, instruments, and services companies.

Those are Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AUXL), Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI), and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX).  While we have a brief synopsis here in the image from Morningstar, the full article goes into more detail.

Of the three merger candidates here, Human Genome Sciences (HGSI) seems the biggest risk because its shares could have been acquired for far cheaper when it was weak and chasing it now would perhaps only make sense for its existing drup partner companies.


More Biotech Buyout or M&A Targets (OSIP, VRTX, AUXL, ITMN, HGSI, CELG, DNDN, ENZN, FACT, PBE, XBI)

March 1, 2010 · Filed Under Cancer, Financial, M&A · 1 Comment 

After today’s hostile Astellas offer for OSI Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: OSIP), we have investors and traders alike looking for ‘the next takeover target’ in biotech.  Buy now you know that there are many pitfalls in simply looking for biotech stocks to buy because they will be taken over.  We have taken a look through our own recent stocks noted as takeover candidates and even gone through some sites of our partners looking through potential takeover candidates in the space.

Morningstar just last week had a short video with some key potential buyout targets in the biotech space.  It noted Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX), Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: AUXL), and InterMune Inc. (NASDAQ: ITMN).  Those are all names that have come up as takeout targets before.

But two that are on Morningstar’s list for buyouts are Human Genome Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ: HGSI) and Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ: CELG) for its REVLIMID franchise.  The problem with Human Genome is that it is in the same boat we have addressed on multiple occasions: its size got away from the potential realm of buyers.  And Celgene has just become too big at a $28 billion market cap for most potential buyers to consider it and the sales growth from $2.689 billion in 2009 is expected to go to $3.26 billion in 2010 and $3.75 billion in 2011 per Thomson Reuters estimates.

After looking around elsewhere, we went back to some Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDN) rumors from last month we covered.  This was based somewhat on options trading, and we think this company may have to wait for a suitor.  Taking the risk of buying the company out before the FDA approves PROVENGE for advanced prostate cancer is something companies are seeming to shy away from.

Enzon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENZN) is another name that comes up routinely in the rumor mill.  We noted this one hitting 52-week highs in January on fresh rumors.

Facet Biotech Corporation (NASDAQ: FACT) has also fought off attempts from Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB) as a new add-on for its MS franchise.  Biogen has been rebuffed and it supposedly will not have an interest anymore.

ETF investors are chasing up names in the sector as well.  PowerShares Dynamic Biotech & Genome (NYSE: PBE) is up 4% at $18.48 and the SPDR S&P Biotech (NYSE: XBI) is up 4.7% at $58.98.

Jon C. Ogg

Vertex (VRTX) Powers Up On Hep C Results

November 2, 2009 · Filed Under R&D · Comments Off 

More than 80 percent of hepatitis C patients in each arm of the Phase 2 Study C208 achieved a sustained viral response (SVR) with a telaprevir-based regimen according to results of an intent-to-treat (ITT) analysis announced today by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ: VRTX ). The data from Study C208 will be presented in an oral presidential plenary session at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), which began yesterday in Boston. Telaprevir is a hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitor being developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated in collaboration with Tibotec and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma.

Study C208 explored telaprevir-based regimens dosed either every 12 hours (q12h; twice daily) or every eight hours (q8h; three times daily) combined with either peg-IFN-alfa-2a (PEGASYS®) or peg-IFN-alfa-2b (PEGINTRON) and ribavirin (RBV), for 12 weeks followed by an additional 12 weeks of peg-IFN and RBV in a response-guided trial design that included 161 treatment-naïve patients (intent-to-treat analysis) with genotype 1 hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Across the four arms, SVR rates were 82 and 83 percent in patients treated with the every 12 hour telaprevir-based regimen (PEGINTRON and PEGASYS, respectively) and 81 and 85 percent in patients treated with the every 8 hour regimen (PEGINTRON and PEGASYS, respectively). For the majority of patients, these SVR rates were obtained with a 24-week telaprevir-based regimen.

News pushed shares up 12% to $37.78, just shy of their 52-week high

Douglas A. McIntyre

Biotech Short Selling Positions (XBI)(VRTX)(UTHR)(REGN)(MATK)(GENZ)(CBST)(BMRN)(BIIB)(ALNY)(AMGN)

August 12, 2009 · Filed Under General · Comments Off 

There were some major moves in the short positions in major biotechs for the period ending August 11.

Amgen (AMGN) short interest was flat at 21 mllion shares.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY) share short rose 2% to 5.8 million.

Biogen Idec (BIIB) short interest dropped a fraction to 9.1 million.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical (BMRN) shares short dropped 6% to 11.7 million.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST) short interest dropped 8% to 4.8 million.

Genzyme Corporation (GENZ) share sold short fell 5% to 5.7 million.

Martek Biosciences (MATK) shares short rose 2% to 4.2 million.

The short interest in Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) rose 9% to 5.9 million.

United Therapeutics (UTHR) shares sold short moved down 10% to 3.1 million.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) shares short dropped 2% to 18.1 million

These ten stocks are the top holding of the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF (XBI)

Data from NYSE and Nasdaq

Douglas A. McIntyre

Vertex takes another step towards a possible hepatitis C drug launch (VRTX)

July 10, 2009 · Filed Under General · Comments Off 

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: VRTX) this morning said it will sell its rights to milestone payments tied to its hepatitis C drug telaprevir in Europe, a possible sign that the launch of the drug with partner Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) for 2011 may be on track.

Back in April, Vertex presented final data from its Phase IIb trial of the drug in treatment-resistant patients. The data showed success in treating many different treatment groups .Sustained viral response rates were achieved, including those with cirrhosis. Slightly more than half of treatment-resistant patients achieved viral response in the 24-week and 48-week telaprevir-based regimens.

 Telaprevir is now considered one of the premier hepatitic-C drug candidates. Its sales within three years of hitting the market could be more than $2 billion.

In selling the rights to the milestone payments, Vertex appears to be making another in a series of cash moves. The company has been adept at doing so over the past 18 months.

It raised about $400 million with a convertible and stock offering in February last year, before the equity capital markets froze. It sold royalties to GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) in May 2009. It was able to raise more than $200 million in September last year, when raising funds was very difficult for many biotechs. And it raised more than $300 million in February 2009.

The combination of moves, including a recent debt conversion appears to be adding to its treasure chest in preparation for telaprevir . — Mike Tarsala

Bill Gates, Small Biotech's New Biggest Investor (ALTH, AMAG, RDEA, ARYX, AUXL, BMRN, ETRM, INCY, ITMN, MAPP, OREX, VRUS, REGN, SGEN, VRTX, XNPT)

May 16, 2009 · Filed Under General · Comments Off 

Late yesterday came the 13-F quarterly filing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust.  Bill and Melinda have invested in drugs and research before, as well as dug companies, but there was a slew of biotech stocks in their quarterly holdings.  Some of these are cancer winners, while others may seem random.  Below we have broken these out by company and size of the position in dollars (M for million; K for thousand) as well as the number of shares.

ALLOS THERAPEUTICS INC. (NASDAQ: ALTH) $3.090M; 500,000 shares
ARDEA BIOSCIENCES INC. (NASDAQ: RDEA) $2.165M; 210,386 shares
ARYX THERAPEUTICS INC. (NASDAQ: ARYX) $1.635M; 480,799 shares
ENTEROMEDICS INC. (NASDAQ: ETRM) $81K; 59,700 shares
INCYTE CORP. (NASDAQ: INCY) $1.02M; 435,700 shares
INTERMUNE INC. (NASDAQ: ITMN) $1.807M; 109,900 shares
PHARMASSET INC. (NASDAQ: VRUS) $821K; 83,641 shares
SEATTLE GENETICS INC. (NASDAQ: SGEN) $34.718M; 3,521,088 shares
XENOPORT INC. (NASDAQ: XNPT) $2.517M; 130,000 shares

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