Strategic buyers snatch up cancer drug developers

cancerresearch
A scientist transfers fluids into a tube at the Driver Inc. laboratory in Shantou, China, on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. A pair of Harvard-trained American oncologists behind the startup Driver, backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, are attempting to harness technology to revamp cancer care. They're taking some of their earliest steps in China -- cancer's ground zero. Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

Research and development is expensive for pharmaceutical developers and often produces unpredictable results. Instead of spending a lot of time and money on internal research for cancer treatments with no guarantees of approval, pharmaceutical companies are making acquisitions to gain access to therapeutics that are already in development, while replacing expired patents.

Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) is among the active buyers snatching up cancer drug developers. The company is buying Tilos Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on developing therapeutics for potential cancer treatments, fibrosis and autoimmune diseases, for up to $773 million. The target was founded by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund, Partners Innovation Fund and received an additional investment from ShangPharma Innovation Fund.

“At Merck we continue to enhance our robust pipeline through active execution of our business development strategy,” says Dean Li, senior vice president, discovery and translational medicine, Merck Research Laboratories. Earlier in 2019, Merck also announced plans to buy immunotherapy research company Immune Design (Nasdaq: IMDZ) for $300 million. The target develops technologies that are designed to activate the immune system’s natural ability to fight against potential cancer cells. The company also announced plans to buy Peloton Therapeutics for up to $2.2 billion. Peloton is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on treating patients with cancer.

Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) is also making deals in the cancer space. The company acquired Copenhagen-based biopharma company Nuevolution for 1.61 billion Swedish krona ($167 million). Nuevolution has a patent-protected drug research platform to identify small-molecule drug candidates to be taken as pills to potentially treat cancer.

Amgen and Nuevolution have worked together since 2016 and the two companies claim that “two of the cancer programs under this collaboration have progressed at high speeds.”

Amgen adds in a release: “A business combination of Amgen and Nuevolution will enable a closer integration of Nuevolution’s technology and drug discovery expertise with Amgen’s experience and capabilities in research and development.”

In another recently announced deal, Varian Medical Systems Inc. (NYSE: VAR) has acquired Cancer Treatment Services International from TPG Growth for $283 million. CTSI owns and operates a network of cancer treatment facilities across India and South Asia.

“Effectively addressing the growing global cancer burden requires not just new technology and research, but also new ways of collaborating and partnering,” says CTSI co-founder Stanley Marks. “This acquisition should now expand the development and implementation of new solutions for cancer care around the world.”

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