Exciting science converges with strong money markets for record year in dealmaking

November 4, 2015 kmuller

The Tuesday plenary session at BIO-Europe® is possibly the favorite moment for the Monday Morning Quarterbacks in the biopharma industry, a chance to not only hear about the year’s biggest deals, but to kick around questions with the people who put those deals together.

Did shifts in the financial markets help or hinder your negotiations? What were the deals that got away from you this year? Do you require a biomarker to make a deal? How do pricing strategies affect your strategic plans?

Panel moderators Evonne Sepsis from ESC Advisors and Anton Gueth from EVOLUTION Life Science Partners kept the questions and talk moving during a brisk one-hour review: “A day in the life of experienced dealmakers: Transformational deals that shaped the industry in 2015.


Keynote discussion at BIO-Europe 2015

Sarah Holland, who leads Sanofi ‘s External Science and Partnering group in Europe, reminded the audience that 2015 is not over yet, announcing that at 7 o’clock that morning her company added yet another transformational deal with BioNTech to develop up to five immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. BioNTech’s mRNA technology platform brought that company EUR 54 million in upfront payments for exclusivity in collaboration and licensing.

The other transformational deal for Sanofi in 2015 was with Regeneron that received USD 640 million in upfront payments, exclusive collaboration to jointly advance PD-1 and other new immuno-oncology antibodies.

“Sanofi has had a collaboration since 2007 with Regeneron that we expanded in 2009, yet this new immuno-oncology collaboration catapults Sanofi with a critical mass into this exciting new field,” she said, adding that “it is an antibody deal, so we are still open for collaborations as the BioNTech deal shows.”

The Senior VP for Business Development at Celgene, George Golumbeski, said it has been a busy but gratifying year, leaving him a bit exhausted in August.

“The record shows we have been busy, and this year saw such a peak of activity and successful dealmaking that I can’t boil it down to less than three major transactions we did,” he said.

“There was our collaboration with AstraZeneca around their PD-L1 program. It is unusual for two large companies to figure how to split a program like that. They will lead in solid tumor development, we will lead in hematological/malignancy development. We are working very closely scientifically, and it is off to a great start,” he said.

“The second transformational deal we did was a really large 10-year, expansive collaboration with Juno. We put USD 1 billion upfront, and they put up pretty much everything in their company. Here 90% of the upfront was in the form of an equity investment. Over time we can acquire up to 30% in the company that is driven on some success metrics that they own and some metrics that we own. The deal allows them to take US rights for most of the programs downstream, and we have ex-US rights. They have been wonderful to work with scientifically,” said Golumbeski.

“The same month that the Juno deal was announced, we announced acquisition of Receptos for USD 7.2 billion,” he said. “For those of you who are familiar with deals, that takes quite a bit to get done. I cannot think of a deal that was north of USD 1 billion where something didn’t blow up two nights before the deal. We got that done and we really like the lead program, Ozanimod, because it has great Phase II data behind it in MS. We saw this as a great way to build our business and diversify our business.”

For Lubor Gaal, the Head for External Innovation and Licensing at Almirall, “Our transformational deal moved the other way. We had a strong business in respiratory, having just launched some very good assets, and after a strategic review we decided to divest the entire portfolio to AstraZeneca while maintaining a research collaboration with them, continuing to develop preclinical products on their behalf.”

He said about 800 people transferred to AstraZeneca, leaving Almirall a company of 2,000 people with a primary focus in dermatology.

“The large upfront payment enabled us to execute on a new strategy as a specialty company focused on dermatology. We did not have the press announcement ready in time for this meeting, unfortunately, but you can expect to be hearing about some significant deals soon.”

For Shire Pharmaceuticals, 2015 saw an expansion into a new therapeutic area through a series of acquisitions. “Ophthalmology is new area and while we do not have any marketed products there yet, we have transformed from zero to being a player,” said Tibor Papp, Senior Director for Business Development at the company.

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