Issue Date: January 26, 2011
Pharma Firms Clinch Deals In Oncology
In separate deals, Amgen and Novartis have targeted sizeable acquisitions in the oncology area. The two deals fit with a prediction for 2011 that "both big pharma and big biotech will again compete for companies with advanced product pipelines," made by industry pundit G. Steven Burrill, in a report from his investment firm earlier this month.
Amgen has agreed to buy privately held BioVex for $425 million in cash up front and another $575 million to be paid upon certain regulatory and sales milestones. Woburn, Mass.-based BioVex will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Amgen.
As one of the earliest biotech firms to emerge, Amgen now is among the first to see its once novel biopharmaceuticals lose patent protection and face broader competition. Acquiring BioVex, which has an oncolytic vaccine in Phase III clinical trials for melanoma and for head and neck cancer, will help refuel Amgen's drug development pipeline.
The BioVex acquisition provides what appears to be "an attractive Phase III shot on goal for melanoma" at a "modest" price, analysts at the investment firm Leerink Swann told clients in a research report. Because encouraging antitumor activity was already displayed in Phase II studies, Amgen hopes to bring the investigational late-stage cancer therapy to the market within the next few years.
Meanwhile, Novartis will purchase the medical laboratory firm Genoptix for $470 million in cash. Based in Carlsbad, Calif., Genoptix
provides diagnostic services to hematologists and oncologists and specializes in diagnosing cancers in bone marrow, blood, and lymph nodes. In 2009, it had sales of $184 million.
With its operations intact, Genoptix will become part of the Novartis Molecular Diagnostics unit within the company's pharmaceuticals division. The acquisition will serve as a "strong foundation for our individualized treatment programs," Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez said last week when announcing the deal.
The work of Genoptix will support the development of diagnostic programs that complement therapeutic programs. It will add tools and services designed to improve health outcomes for patients by allowing their treatment to be more personally defined and monitored.
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