Busy biopharma M&A activity closed out 2018

During the fourth quarter of 2018, Cortellis Deals Intelligence registered 140 new mergers and acquisitions (M&A) with a total disclosed deal value of $33.1 billion as part of its ongoing coverage of M&A activity in the life sciences sector compared to 153 and $20.3 billion in the third quarter and 151 and $100.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 (See Figure 1).


Figure 1: Volume of M&As during Q4 2018 was high and similar to Q4 2017 and Q4 2014, although its total disclosed value ($33.1 billion) did not reach the robust $100 billion-plus totals of those quarters. Source: Cortellis Deals Intelligence


High-value M&As worth $0.5B or more

We tracked 30 high-value new M&As worth in excess of $100 million during the fourth quarter of 2018 with 12 worth more than $500 million (seven of which were device/therapeutic) (See Figure 2).


Figure 2: Purchase offers of athenahealth by Veritas & Evergreen, TESARO by GlaxoSmithKline and BTG by Boston Scientific led M&A activity for Q4 2018. Source: Cortellis Deals Intelligence


The highest transaction for the period was the $5.7 billion offer done by Veritas Capital and Elliott Management for cloud-computing firm athenahealth. For M&A covering therapeutic firms, cancer remains the main indication in most of them, including the recent acquisition of TESARO by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for $5.1 billion, $2.1 billion reimbursed by Novartis following the Endocyte acquisition, the optional purchase of PellePharm by LEO Pharma for $0.8 billion (combining milestones and M&A consideration fees) and the $0.5 billion offered for Corium by the equity private firm Gurnet.


Three key therapeutic M&As

GSK acquired U.S.-based oncology company TESARO for $5.1 billion in cash ($75 per share) following its rebuilding oncology pipeline strategy. GSK is incorporating TESARO’s niraparib, an oral PARP-1/-2 inhibitor commercialized for recurrent epithelial ovarian and being investigated for multiple cancers, including breast cancer and advanced non-small-cell lung cancer. The transaction also incorporates dostarlimab, an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody in clinical stage for advanced solid tumors, as well as other oncology programs, including TSR-022, an anti-TIM-3 monoclonal antibody, and TSR-033, an anti-LAG-3 monoclonal antibody, both in phase I for advanced solid tumors.

Endocyte became a Novartis subsidiary for $2.1 billion ($24 per share). The acquisition brings to Novartis a complementary portfolio of clinical-stage oncology radiopharmaceuticals, including Lu-177-PSMA-617 (a PSMA ligand labeled to Lu-177), currently in phase III for metastatic castration resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), and 225Ac-PSMA-617, a DOTA derivative of a prostate-specific membrane antigen-targeting ligand labeled with 225-Actinium, also in clinical development for mCRPC. Endocyte’s assets also comprise an important portfolio of adaptor-controlled CAR T therapies, such as IND-stage EC17/CAR T-cell for the potential treatment of solid and hematological cancers

LEO Pharma injected funds to support the development of PellePharm (BridgeBio company)’s topical gel formulation of patidegib, a semi-synthetic derivative of cyclopamine, currently in phase III for surgically eligible basal cell nevus syndrome in Gorlin syndrome patients and phase II for basal cell carcinoma. LEO acquired a minority stake of Pellepharm for $70 million (including equity fee and R&D funding) and an option to acquire the remaining shares. The stockholders of the U.S. rare dermatologic disease firm are eligible to receive up to $690 million (including merger consideration and regulatory and commercial milestone fees), as well as double-digit royalties (See Figure 5).


The M&A landscape in APAC

Japan continued as the epicenter of Asia-Pacific (APAC) M&A activity for this period, concentrating the highest value disclosed deals covering multiple markets, including pharmaceutical/biotech (oncology), over-the-counter and diagnostics. The deals amounted to a total disclosed value of $4.1 billion, led by the $2.1 billion offer from J&J for remaining stock of the cosmetic company Ci:z Holdings, integrating the target firm into the big pharma’s family of consumer companies, and $1.6 billion offer of Taisho Pharmaceutical by the BMS over-the-counter subsidiary, the France-based firm UPSA.

Two key therapeutic M&As in the APAC region included the Japanese-based Astellas Pharma’s option exercised to acquire U.S. firm Potenza Therapeutics for $165 million and Sun’s play for Pola.  Astellas reinforced its immune-oncology (IO) clinical and non-clinical portfolio with multiple targets, including immune stimulation, immune checkpoint inhibition and regulatory T-cell function targets, with potential combination with non I-O assets. The most advanced programs of Potenza include the antibody PTZ-201 (ASP-8374), an inhibitor of the TIGIT immune checkpoint, and PTZ-329 (ASP-1948), an anti-NRP1 antibody (Treg function inhibitor), both in phase I for solid tumors. Sun strengthened its commercial dermatological business with Pola’s multiple topical and injectable ethical and generic drugs for skin diseases, including the antifungal topical luliconazole and the old antibiotic colimycin.

The top M&A involving APAC-based companies focused on oncology and dermatology, with representation of pain and gastrointestinal diseases; most of the assets are commercially available and all mainly European and U.S. target companies.


Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the author’s full Q4 M&A analysis which is available under “Related information” at Cortellis Deals Intelligence.  


Please see, also, the Cortellis 2018 Biopharma Deals & Portfolio Review, our comprehensive look at the year in dealmaking.  Our analysts dig into the strategies behind last year’s biggest deals and key portfolio decisions, with a focus on key companies, therapeutic areas and regions.