Welcome to this week’s FiercePharmaAsia report. Takeda announced two deals at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference—a $5.2 billion proposal to acquire Ariad and another one of $125 million to collaborate with Maverick on T-cell R&D. Valeant, in an effort to raise money to pay down debt, sold cancer subsidiary Dendreon to a Chinese conglomerate for about $820 million. Daiichi Sankyo will soon shutter a 170-person Indian R&D site. Chinese CRO Phamaron bought U.S. accelerator mass spectrometry specialist Xceleron. India’s Aurobindo Pharma bought a Portuguese plant with €135 million.
It was reported that Takeda set aside what for it was a jaw-dropping $15 billion to fund deals, and it just put the first chunk of that money into use. In a deal valued at $5.2 billion that it announced at the J.P. Morgan event, Takeda intends to pay $24 per share for Ariad and claim ownership of its leukemia drug Iclusig plus brigatinib, a probably “best-in-class ALK+ inhibitor” that’s set to win an FDA approval before the end of April. The Japanese pharma has recently been restructuring its R&D forces to focus more on oncology, CNS, infectious diseases and GI, and Ariad is seen as a perfect fit for Takeda, given its expertise in blood cancers and desire to expand into other forms of cancer. The patent on Takeda’s own multiple myeloma blockbuster, Velcade, is expiring this year, but its updated treatment Ninlaro is doing better than expected on the U.S. market. Meanwhile, Iclusig is facing a drug jack-up investigation from lawmakers, although it might not pose much damage to the drug. Because this Ariad purchase is not yet settled, emergence of a rival bidder, though unlikely, still exists. Both companies’ boards are slated to make their decisions by the end of February.
Valeant was continuously hit in 2016—by criticism of its price-hiking tactic used on several drugs, by lackluster performance from Salix Pharmaceuticals, by an FDA refusal of its application for a latanoprostene bunod ophthalmic solution, and by the departures of several key execs. Offloading non-core units for cash seems to be Valeant’s only logical strategy to turn the situation around, analysts say. Now, the company is selling its equity interest in its cancer drugmaker Dendreon for $819.9 million in cash to China’s Sanpower Group. This is the first time a Chinese company took over an American drugmaker that develops original meds, and is the most expensive pharma purchase by a Chinese company in America. The deal will transfer ownership of Provenge, the only FDA-approved immunotherapy for prostate cancer and the only commercialized product of Dendreon, to the Chinese conglomerate. The therapeutic vaccine received much attention when first approved by the FDA in 2010 but never quite caught pace, and its commercial failure was cited as the main cause for Dendreon’s bankruptcy in 2014. The new owner expects to bring the drug to China and other Asian markets. Valeant will sell several skincare brands to L'Oréal for $1.3 billion in another deal.
Another sum of Takeda’s $15 billion M&A war chest has found its direction. The Japanese pharma is spending $125 million through its wholly owned subsidiary Millennium Pharmaceuticals in a T-cell cancer R&D collaboration with startup Maverick, and could potentially buy out the biotech, a recent spinoff of Harpoon Therapeutics. Maverick’s novel T-cell treatment has the potential to eliminate the toxicity challenges inherent in the use of T-cell redirection therapy due to expression of the target antigen on normal tissue.
Daiichi Sankyo will close a 170-person infectious and autoimmune diseases R&D site in India. The Japanese drugmaker bought the site in 2010 following its $4.6 billion acquisition of Ranbaxy Laboratories, but has now decided it can boost R&D productivity by severing it. Current pipeline programs will be transferred to its main R&D division. Daiichi also shuttered R&D sites in the U.K. and Germany in the past two years, marking a shift toward oncology and increased reliance on external collaborations.
About a year after Phamaron acquired U.K.-based fellow CRO Quotient Bioresearch, the Chinese CRO is branching out again. The target is Maryland-based Xceleron, which has been around for nearly 20 years.
India’s Aurobindo Pharma, in a continuous effort to build its global presence, will pay about €135 million to buy Generis Farmacêutica, a generics manufacturer in Portugal. This followed a $41 million deal it struck with Actavis in 2014 to buy seven generic plants in Western Europe, including one in Portugal. Aurobindo will now be the largest generic producer in that country.