Wyeth in talks to buy vaccine maker Crucell

It didn't take long for a new deal to surface in the new year. Wyeth is in buyout talks with the Dutch vaccine company Crucell, reportedly for as much as $1.35 billion. Though Crucell sent out a statement confirming the negotiations, Wyeth is tight-lipped about the possible combo. Talks are "at a preliminary stage" and may not culminate in a deal, Crucell said in its news release.

Fittingly, news of the deal broke in the Wall Street Journal just hours after Wyeth CEO Bernard Poussot (photo) told an analyst conference that the future of pharma lies in biotech--and that the company might "be much more aggressive" about making acquisitions, Dow Jones reports. Market conditions have tightened the screws on some biotech companies, and some won't be able to weather the storm unless they're adopted by a bigger firm, he said.

Plus, Wyeth wants to go biotech itself, as part of an overall diversification strategy. Poussot said today that he wants 75 percent of Wyeth sales to come from biotech drugs, vaccines, and consumer products, up from 60 percent today. Crucell boasts vaccines for hepatitis B, flu, typhoid, and cholera, among others.

As you know, Wyeth already has some biotech meds and vaccines in its portfolio, partly via partnerships. Enbrel, for instance, is an arthritis and psoriasis treatment Wyeth markets in association with Amgen. Its Prevnar childhood vaccine has also been something of a success story--a badly needed one, because like its fellow drugmakers, Wyeth has cut costs and laid off workers in recent months. In Wyeth's case, a blockbuster heartburn drug, Protonix, is facing the early launch of generic competitors.

- find Crucell's statement
- read the WSJ article
- see the story in the Hartford Courant
- check out Dow Jones' take

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