In the year’s second biggest M&A deal, Merck & Co. Inc. will take over pulmonary and hematologic specialist Acceleron Pharma Inc. for $11.5 billion. The acquisition brings Merck a pair of potential blockbuster drugs, one of them already marketed. There is sotatercept, in development for treating pulmonary hypertension (PH), and also Reblozyl (luspatercept-aamt), the first and only erythroid maturation agent approved in the U.S., Europe and Canada for treating anemia in certain blood disorders.
Following two clinical trial disappointments, the newest being the phase III failure of ampreloxetine, Theravance Biopharma Inc. will restructure by laying off three-quarters of its staff and will stop developing all but two of its non-respiratory disease programs. The ampreloxetine study for treating symptomatic neurogenic orthostatic hypotension failed to meet its primary endpoint, the company announced Sept. 15. In late August, data from a phase IIb dose-finding study showed izencitinib, a gut-selective pan-JAK inhibitor for treating ulcerative colitis, failed to meet its primary endpoint.
Swiss biotech Polyphor AG, left hindered by failures in advanced clinical programs it had pursued in breast cancer and bacterial pneumonia, has found a path forward in a planned merger with Enbiotix Inc. The combination would put Enbiotix Chairman and CEO Jeff Wager in charge of a publicly listed company advancing a combined portfolio of programs for rare disease and cancer, including Polyphor’s inhaled antibiotic, murepavadin, for infections in people with cystic fibrosis.
Pfizer Inc.’s voluntary recall of batches of Chantix (varenicline) in mid-July called attention to the smoking-cessation market, where the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist holds lead position, with Glaxosmithkline plc’s Zyban (bupropion) – another oral prescription drug – also a contender. In line to potentially shake up the space with cytisinicline, a plant-based alkaloid, is Achieve Life Sciences Inc.
It’s more than 20 years since the tobacco firm Philip Morris International Inc. commissioned a controversial research paper, “Public Finance Balance of Smoking in the Czech Republic,” which infamously argued that smokers cut state health care expenditure by dying early. The paper was considered an outrage and led to a high-profile apology from the company, after being widely derided by politicians and commentators internationally. The company’s July 9 proposal to buy the respiratory diseases firm Vectura Group plc for $1.2 billion is already looking just as provocative according to U.K. politicians and anti-smoking groups, who are calling for the government to intervene to stop it going ahead.
Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Inc. said it voluntarily paused a phase I/II study of its RNAi candidate for treating cystic fibrosis (CF) out of an “abundance of caution” while considering its next steps. “This may delay our pulmonary program a bit, but it’s just part of drug development,” said Christopher Anzalone, Arrowhead’s CEO. The halt was prompted by signals of local lung inflammation found in an ongoing chronic toxicology study in rats.
DUBLIN – Verona Pharma plc is adding $25 million cash to its balance sheet, as well as $15 million worth of stock in Nuance Biotech Co. Ltd., and could earn up to $179 million more in milestones linked to the development in the greater China region of ensifentrine, its candidate maintenance therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
Pieris Pharmaceuticals Inc. is banking $20 million up front and could receive up to $1.4 billion more in preclinical, clinical and commercial milestones from a multi-program collaboration and license agreement in respiratory disease and ophthalmology with Genentech.