UCB SA has unveiled plans to acquire Zogenix Inc. in a deal worth up to €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion), adding to its portfolio an approved drug aimed at rare forms of epilepsy. Brussels-based UCB will pay $26 per share in cash for the Emeryville, Calif.-based biotech, plus a contingent value right (CVR) of $2 per share, which would pay out upon approval of the oral drug Fintepla (fenfluramine) for Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The up-front payment represents a 72% premium to Zogenix shares compared with an average taken over the last 30 days. News of the deal, supported by both companies’ boards, sent Zogenix shares (NASDAQ:ZGNX) up nearly 67%, while UCB’s shares (UCB) on Euronext Brussels rose by 3%.

Shares of Cardiff sink on word of new onvansertib data in mCRC

Cardiff Oncology Inc. rolled out updated findings from the phase Ib/II trial called TROV-054 with PLK1 inhibitor onvansertib in second-line, KRAS-mutated metastatic colorectal cancer. One complete response turned up in the study, which is testing onvansertib paired with standard-of-care: Avastin (bevacizumab, Roche Holding AG) plus the FOLFIRI chemotherapy regimen. Shares (NASDAQ:CRDF) were trading midday at $4.82, down $1.32, or 21%.

Startup Altos Labs launches with $3B, with GSK exec to take helm

With an ambitious promise to unravel the biology of cellular rejuvenation programming, Altos Labs launched Jan. 19 with $3 billion in committed funding and an impressive roster of academic and industry leaders. The company will be headed by incoming CEO Hal Barron, currently president of R&D and chief scientific officer at Glaxosmithkline plc, who will step into the new role on Aug. 1.

Ceptur captures $75M series A for oligo approach

Ceptur Therapeutics Inc. has completed a $75 million series A financing to develop targeted oligonucleotide therapies based on its U1 Adaptor technology. The adaptors are bivalent oligonucleotides designed to engage sequence-specific mRNA and the U1 small nuclear ribonuclear protein that regulates transcription and splicing. The therapeutics are for controlling gene expression at the pre-mRNA level within the nucleus. The round was co-led by Venbio Partners and Qiming Venture Partners USA with participation by new investors Perceptive Xontogeny Venture Fund, Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and Janus Henderson Investors along with existing seed investors Affinity Asset Advisors, Boxer Capital and Lifesci Venture Partners.

Engitix raises $54M to advance ECM target discovery platform

LONDON – Engitix Therapeutics Ltd. has raised $54 million in a series A round to advance early programs arising from its human extracellular matrix (ECM) target discovery platform toward the clinic with the support of new partner and equity investor Dompé Farmaceutici. The Italian pharma company will provide access to the resources and expertise needed to move from target identification and validation to candidate selection and onto preclinical development.

New tools needed for antitrust merger analysis

With U.S. merger filings more than doubling between 2020 and 2021, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division are seeking public input as they begin to modernize federal merger guidelines to better detect and prevent what they consider illegal, anticompetitive deals. The agencies are looking at new approaches to how they analyze proposed mergers to ensure they capture current market complexities. “We need to understand why so many industries have too few competitors and to think carefully about how to ensure our merger enforcement tools are fit for purpose in the modern economy,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter. Any changes that clamp down on mergers and acquisitions will impact the drug and device industries, where such deals are part of doing business.

Multinationals’ tax schemes under US Senate scrutiny

At least one biopharma company is under the magnifying glass in a U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigation into large multinational corporations that shift profits overseas as a way to avoid U.S. taxes. Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (BMS), of New York, was informed yesterday that it’s part of the investigation, along with the attorneys and consultants who advised it on a decade-old strategy that reduced the company’s U.S. effective tax rate from almost 25% in 2011 to nearly -7% in 2012. Noting that the “full facts and circumstances of this arrangement are not publicly available,” Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked BMS CEO and Chairman Giovani Caforio to explain the actions that resulted in such a significant drop in the company’s tax rate.

Newco news: Servatus advances live microbial biotherapeutics after $5.4M capital raise

PERTH, Australia – After raising AU$7.5 million (US$5.4 million) in a private placement, biopharma company Servatus Ltd. is advancing its microbial biotherapeutics clinical programs targeting serious autoimmune conditions. The Coolum, Queensland-based private company is focused on identifying and developing live microbial biotherapeutics and engineered proteins to treat chronic and autoimmune diseases, as well as non-antibiotic treatments for bacterial infections.

Also in the news

23andme, Abbisko, Abivax, ADC, Affamed, Algernon, Alligator, Alterome, Altos Labs, Alvotech, Aqualung, Astrazeneca, Awakn, Bioinvent, Cardiff, Chemocentryx, Chimerix, Cstone, Cytomx, Eikonoklastes, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Eqrx, Essa, Exelixis, Galapagos, Gamida Cell, Gilead, Glaxosmithkline, Immixbio, Immunitybio, Immvira, ITM, Kinnate, Leap, Lynk, Merck, Mitsubishi Tanabe, Neurophth, Numinus, Orbus, Osmotica, Persongen, Pneumagen, Recce, Regeneron, Revance, Revive, Sanofi, Seagen, Siteone, Spero, Transgene, Vertex, Vyne, Yumanity