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Friday, December 20, 2013

Deals Of The Week: Can Endo Succeed By Copying The Valeant Model?


Santa’s sleigh may be loaded to the brim with gifts come Christmas Eve but it was Deals of the Week that carried a heavy load during the final full business week before the Yuletide holiday. That’s roughly 20 business development transactions, and counting, for the week of Dec. 16-20 as this column went to press.

Below are some of the highlights, but let’s start with the latest stocking-stuffer at Endo Health Solutions, which has always relied on deal-making to fill its pipeline but may be poised to increase its prior business development pace since Rajiv De Silva signed on as CEO from perpetual deal-maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals in February. On Dec. 16, Endo agreed to acquire NuPathe and its recently approved sumatriptan patch, Zecuity, for $105 million upfront plus potential contingent payments pegged to future sales of the migraine product.

This closely followed the Nov. 5 $1.6 billion buyout of Canadian specialty pharma Paladin Labs, a move that would expand Endo’s international footprint to Canada, South Africa and Mexico, while providing tax advantages by allowing the suburban Philadelphia company to re-domicile in Ireland. It’s been a frenetic pace since De Silva took over and moved toward a Valeant-like pursuit of expansion via M&A activity.

While Wall Street did not rave about the NuPathe acquisition, perceiving it as mainly the acquisition of a single asset likely to post smallish sales but also enhance Endo’s pain product portfolio, analysts told Deals of the Week they approve of De Silva’s approach to re-making Endo.

“I actually like the strategy he’s pursuing,” said UBS Investment Research analyst Marc Goodman. “De Silva came in and said ‘we need to restructure this place first because our costs are out of whack with our revenues.’ That’s pretty much the same thing Valeant did a few years ago. The second thing he did was look at the assets and ask what they wanted to be in and what they didn’t. They decided to get rid of [urological services provider] HealthTronics, so that’s on the block. And it wouldn’t surprise me if in 2015 or afterward, once they fix [medical device unit] AMS that they sell AMS.”

Speaking to the Credit Suisse Healthcare Conference Nov. 12, De Silva said plans to divest HealthTronics, termed “not … a strategic fit with us anymore,” are making solid progress. “We have retained an investment bank and we are in the midst of doing management presentations and are optimistic about the level of interest that has been expressed so far,” the exec said. He didn’t address any plans to sell off AMS but said that apart from its women’s health offerings, the unit is showing quarter-to-quarter performance improvement, including year-to-date revenue growth compared with 2012.

The $105 price tag for NuPathe works out to about $2.85 per share. But if Zecuity, approved by FDA in January but not yet launched, meets certain sales thresholds, NuPathe investors stand to get additional payouts. They’ll get $2.15 per share if net sales of Zecuity top $100 million during any four-quarter period up to the ninth anniversary of the first commercial sale of the product. And they can obtain an additional $1 per share if the product reaches $300 million in sales during a four-quarter period during that same time span.

The only FDA-approved prescription patch for migraine, Zecuity is a disposable, single-use, battery-powered transdermal patch that delivers sumatriptan through the patient’s skin. Its approval was based on a Phase III program that tested nearly 10,000 units of the product in 793 patients.

While Goodman thinks Zecuity is unlikely to top the sales marks established under the deal’s contingent payment language, he believes the technology behind the patch product will make it hard to duplicate, frustrating attempts at generic competition and providing Endo with a “very long tail” of revenue (sumatriptan itself, developed and sold by GlaxoSmithKline, has been generic since 2008).

UBS initially will include annual sales of less than $100 million in its modeling for Endo, because of the highly genericized competition in migraine, the resulting pricing pressure and the possibility that doctors with patients who failed to obtain relief on an oral sumatriptan product might not be greatly inclined to try a sumatriptan patch in those very same patients. “I just wonder about the pecking order,” Goodman said.

Meanwhile, Morningstar analyst David Krempa sees the transaction as keeping with the tradition of bolt-on deals De Silva would have learned to value while serving as president and chief operating officer at Valeant.

“It’s a relatively small deal that basically fits in with the strategy they talked about, pursuing bolt-on deals similar to what we saw at Valeant, combined with the occasional mega-deal like we saw with Paladin,” Krempa noted. “Those are the kinds of deals that Valeant has had success with, ones in which it can acquire a product or asset and take out all the revenue without needing to add on any expenses. They don’t need the sales force that [NuPathe] has and so they add the new product onto their existing sales force’s portfolio and get all of the sales without taking on much of the expense that typically would go along with it.”

But Krempa shares Goodman’s concerns about the viability of the migraine space and pain therapy in general. Endo needs to seek out business areas offering “less pricing pressure and better organic growth prospects,” he said, citing dermatology, ophthalmology, branded generics and over-the-counter products as possible targets. The Paladin acquisition gives Endo entrĂ©e into some of those spaces, he added.

Meanwhile, plenty of other companies, including Valeant of course, were negotiating their own deals during the final shopping days before Christmas. Read on as we present a red-and-green tinged edition of ....




Valeant/Solta Medical: Serial buyer Valeant moved to expand its aesthetics business this week with the addition of Solta Medical, the makers of medical device systems for aesthetic applications. Valeant announced Dec. 16 it will acquire Solta for $250 million in the latest in a string of acquisitions by the Canadian firm in recent years, including several that have expanded the company’s portfolio in medical devices and dermatology. Solta will complement Valeant’s portfolio on both fronts by augmenting its offerings to dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Its 2012 revenues were $145 million, coming from products like Thermage CPT radiofrequency skin-tightening system, Fraxel skin repair system and the Clear + Brilliant laser skin-resurfacing system. Solta has made a number of major acquisitions in recent years, including Sound Surgical Technologies in February 2013, and the LipoSonix business from Medicis Pharmaceutical in 2011. Valeant ultimately acquired Medicis in 2012 for $2.6 billion, building significantly on its dermatology and aesthetic offerings at the time. - Jessica Merrill

Merck/GlaxoSmithKline: Merck announced Dec. 18 that it is teaming up its highly anticipated early-stage cancer compound, MRK-3475, with GlaxoSmithKline’s kidney cancer drug Votrient (pazopanib), which was approved in October 2009. The two pharmas will test the protein kinase inhibitor with the anti-PD-1 immunotherapy in a Phase I/II clinical trial that will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combo in treatment-naive patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma, they said in a statement. Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed. But the dollar amount attached to the deal is almost irrelevant; for Merck, the anti-PD-1 immunotherapy is one of its few programs to garner much enthusiasm of late – both inside and outside the company – as the New Jersey pharma struggles to move drugs through its pipeline successfully. Merck is relying heavily on the cancer immunotherapy – which has shown a lot of promise but is still very early – to deliver its first blockbuster in several years; and the company intends to partner, partner and partner some more. “We look forward to initiating further collaborations to investigate MK-3475 in combination with other anti-cancer agents across a range of tumor types,” said Iain Dukes, SVP of Licensing and External Scientific Affairs at Merck Research Laboratories. So expect to see plenty more of these little tie-ups in 2014 – but don’t hold your breath for any financial terms to be revealed. - Lisa LaMotta

Pfizer/Siemens: Pfizer and Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics have entered into a master collaboration agreement to design, develop and commercialize diagnostic tests for therapeutic products across Pfizer’s pipeline. Siemens is providing in vitro diagnostic tests that Pfizer can use in its clinical trials and potentially as companion diagnostics for Pfizer drugs. Terms were not disclosed, nor were development priorities, but Trevor Hawkins, SVP, strategy & innovations, diagnostics division of Siemens Healthcare, said the deal is open-ended and could be applied to Pfizer’s entire portfolio, from early-stage development to commercialized drugs. The partners already have two active programs, one of which requires Siemens to identify a marker for a compound and the other of which requires Siemens to develop a test for a biomarker that Pfizer has identified already. The partners have set up a joint governance committee, which is meeting weekly. Both companies have partnerships with others around companion diagnostics, but those are mostly one-offs; Siemens, for example, in June, entered into a global agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica to create a companion diagnostic for an early-stage heart failure therapeutic. Pfizer has at least three companion diagnostic deals, including one with Qiagen, which it signed in 2011 to develop a molecular test for dacomitinib, then in Phase III for non-small cell lung cancer. And in 2012, it signed a deal with Roche Diagnostics Corp. to develop an immunohistochemistry companion test for Xalkori (crizotinib), also for NSCLC. Pfizer isn’t the first pharma to enter into a master agreement around companion diagnostics; Eli Lilly has one with Qiagen. As the deal’s reach shows, pharma’s inherent skepticism about the value of companion diagnostics is gone, although many uncertainties remain, both technical and commercial, about the field. - Wendy Diller

Bristol-Myers Squibb/AstraZeneca: AstraZeneca announced Dec. 19 that it will acquire the entirety of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s interests in their diabetes alliance, including drug assets, staff and infrastructure, paying $2.7 billion on deal completion, $1.4 billion in regulatory and commercial milestones, and royalties up to 2025. The deal ends a seven-year diabetes alliance between the two parties that culminated in the 2012 co-purchase of Amylin Pharmaceuticals for $7 billion. With the dissolution of the alliance, AstraZeneca gets all patents and global rights to DPP-4 inhibitor Onglyza (saxagliptin) in all combinations and formulations, SGLT4 inhibitor dapagliflozin (Forxiga in Europe), metreleptin (recombinant leptin) for treatment of lipodystrophy, and Amylin’s GLP-1 assets Bydureon (exenatide, weekly injection) and Byetta (exenatide, twice-daily injection). The transaction illustrates the divergence in strategy between the two companies, as AstraZeneca believes its geographic reach and its scale in diabetes assets, infrastructure and capabilities position it to succeed. Bristol, on the other hand, will use the breakup to accelerate its transformation into a sharply focused specialty care company and to re-allocate its resources toward its PD1 program and its immuno-oncology franchise, said CEO Lamberto Andreotti on a same-day business update call. AstraZeneca’s focus in 2014 will be on its upcoming launch of dapagliflozin in the U.S., on building the Bydureon brand, and on life-cycle management of Onglyza. - Mike Goodman

Bayer/Algeta: Everyone likes to see a billion-dollar acquisition or two quickening the markets a bit going into the annual industry festival that is the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference. Obligingly, Algeta and its partner Bayer are providing one; the biotech said on Dec. 19 that it has agreed to be acquired by the pharma for $2.9 billion. Algeta originally disclosed an offer from Bayer on Nov. 26. In the intervening weeks, it got the pharma to sweeten the pot a bit to NOK 362 per share from NOK 336. That increase raised the offer from the original price of about $2.65 billion. The price is a 37% premium to the closing price on Nov. 25, the day before it disclosed the original Bayer offer. The pair partnered on prostate cancer therapy Xofigo (radium-223 dichloride), which was approved and launched in the U.S. in May. It subsequently was approved in the EU in November. In a market crowded with new and expensive entrants, the therapeutic offers a new mechanism of action and is aimed specifically at the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer in patients with symptomatic bone metastases, a critically ill subset. In Xofigo’s first full quarter of sales, it had $17 million in revenue during the third quarter. Administration sites have to be licensed to sell the product because of its radioactivity; as of Oct. 18, Algeta said there were 626 facilities licensed to treat patients with Xofigo in the U.S. That number had progressed faster than expected. Algeta received €100 million ($137 million) in Xofigo milestones during the first three quarters of 2013. Half of this amount came due on the FDA submission for Xofigo, with the other half tied to the first sale of the product. Under the terms of the 2009 partnership, Bayer paid €42.5 million up front. Then in 2012, Algeta exercised its option to co-promote Xofigo in the U.S., which entitled it to a 50/50 split with Bayer of profits and commercialization costs. Bayer owns sole rights ex-U.S., paying Algeta a tiered double-digit royalty on product sales. Analysts estimate Xofigo will be a blockbuster. Bayer clearly was unwilling to share any upside with its biotech partner and, with enough cash, it didn’t have to. - Stacy Lawrence

Jazz/Gentium: Recently re-domiciled in Ireland, as Endo now is planning to do, Jazz Pharmaceuticals signed an agreement Dec. 19 to purchase Italy’s Gentium for $57 a share, a bid that would total out to about $1 billion. Key to the deal is Defitelio (defibrotide), approved by the EU this past October to treat veno-occlusive disease in adult and pediatric patients undergoing hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. The sale is structured as a tender offer – both companies’ boards of directors have approved the transaction. Based on a single-stranded oligodioxyribonucleotide extracted from DNA in pig intestines, defibrotide had been filed for approval in the U.S. but Gentium withdrew its NDA in August 2011 after learning that FDA would refuse to file the application over questions of data quality and the conduct and monitoring of clinical trials. “Incorporating Gentium into Jazz Pharmaceuticals is a strong strategic fit, as Defitelio would diversify our development and commercial portfolio and complement our clinical experience in hematology/oncology and our expertise in reaching targeted physicians who treat serious medical conditions,” Jazz Chairman and CEO Bruce Cozadd said in a release. “Because Defitelio is already approved in the EU, the acquisition would add a new orphan product that has potential for short- and long-term revenue generation, high growth and expansion of our multinational commercial platform.” In a Dec. 20 note, Brean Capital analyst Gene Mack said the acquisition should be immediately accretive for Jazz, with defibrotide bringing in a projected $71 million in sales in 2014, crossing the $200 million annual sales threshold in 2018 and nearing $500 million in 2023. - Joseph Haas

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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