Bioverativ remind you of Baxalta? Get ready for a different M&A outcome, execs say

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov isn't worried about competition from Biogen's forthcoming hemophilia spinoff.

SAN FRANCISCO—Deal talk is pretty hard to ignore at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference—especially for a pair of the world’s biggest hemophilia drugmakers. But they’re doing their best to tune out the noise.

The execs at Bioverativ, Biogen’s soon-to-be-spun-off hemophilia business, are all too familiar with the talk of last year’s event: Baxalta, a newly spun-off pharma business centered on hemophilia, finally gave in to Shire’s advances, with the pair announcing a $32 billion deal.

“Well, we’ve heard about that,” John Cox, who will take the helm at the new company, joked in an interview with FiercePharma.

But while the parallels are undeniable, Bioverativ is expecting a different outcome. As a publicly traded company, it wouldn't be able to prevent bidders from sniffing around. But it won't offer itself as bait. “It is a public company, so everything would be evaluated, but the idea of setting up a company to be sold is not a strategy, and that certainly is not our strategy,” Cox said.

To emphasize the point, Bioverativ’s chief of global therapeutic operations, Rogério Vivaldi, M.D., noted that he joined the future spinoff from another company: “I was not at Biogen. I came to Bioverativ, so I didn’t come to a place to be sold. Period."

Instead, the Bioverativ team is looking forward to making some pickups and striking some partnerships of its own. As a smaller company, it’ll be looking for opportunities that can “move the needle” and be meaningful for patients, Cox said, but it’ll also have the help of scientists and business development experience from its larger parent company.

With those connections, Bioverativ will also be able to handle global launches, making it attractive to small companies that want their assets given the “kind of attention [they] deserve.”

At least one of Bioverativ’s rivals isn’t feeling too threatened by the newcomer, though, and that’s Shire. In a presentation Tuesday, CEO Flemming Ornskov emphatically proclaimed his company’s hemophilia portfolio the industry’s “broadest” and “most innovative.”

“Hemophilia? Well, you can’t come to this conference without hearing a lot of news. Here’s the news that is the old news and will be continuing to be the news: Shire is the undisputed leader,” Ornskov said.

The way Ornskov sees it, “there’s no subsegment” of the disease where the Dublin drugmaker is absent. It either has a product now or is working to create one. And Shire plays in all the market’s growth categories, including personalization prophylaxis, on-demand treatment and ex-U.S. geographies.

With that in mind, he’s staying just as far from the dealmaking table this January as Bioverativ’s execs.

“You can say, well, in '15 you announced a big deal, Flemming, in '16 you announced a big deal, why didn’t you announce a big deal this year?” Ornskov said. “We don’t need to. We are already a big company, and this year the big deal is to deliver.”