Cancer drugmaker Tesaro weighs its options as wannabe buyers come running

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Drugmakers may have to bring some serious cash to the table if they want to talk takeover with Tesaro, which boasts a hot late-stage cancer prospect niraparib.

Industry watchers have been predicting that cancer drugmaker Tesaro would generate M&A buzz. After all, growth-starved Big Pharma players have proven willing to shell out big bucks for prime oncology targets.

And now it has.

The Massachusetts biotech reportedly has attracted takeover interest from a slew of companies eyeing its potential blockbuster niraparib, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters. Tesaro is discussing its options with investment banks, including Citigroup, though it’s not actually working toward a sale, the sources say.

The reason? The sizeable gap between bid and ask: Tesaro values itself at a much higher price than wannabe buyers currently do. So, for now, Tesaro is getting strategic advice, including tactics for handling its suitors.

That’s not to say the company wouldn't sell, period. Clinical trial data set to read out this year on PARP prospect niraparib might help bring the parties closer together on price. The up-and-comer has already posted progression-free survival benefits larger than ever before seen in recurrent ovarian cancer, and EvaluatePharma forecast the drug would rake in $1.9 billion in 2022 sales.

The buyer interest is no surprise, considering the prices Big Pharma has paid over the last couple years to add drugs in the fast-growing cancer field. AbbVie, for one, forked over $21 billion for access to a piece of blood-cancer star Imbruvica, while Pfizer coughed up $14 billion for Medivation, maker of fellow PARP candidate talazoparib.

And while Pfizer may have locked up its PARP player with that Medivation buy, plenty of rival bidders lost out. Gilead Sciences was said to be one of them, and Guggenheim analysts last year predicted the California-based Big Biotech could find Tesaro enticing. Earlier this week, Gilead CEO John Milligan conceded that the company would need acquisitions to fuel growth as its hep C standouts plummet.