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The new year began with a strong start as one megadeal, a few smaller collaborations, and several venture capital financings were announced. Novartis (NYSE:NVS), which bought $10.4 billion of Alcon (NYSE:ACL) equity from Nestle (OTCPK:NSRGY) in April of 2008, exercised its option to purchase the rest of Nestle’s stake for $180 per share in cash for a total of $28.1 billion. That will make Novartis the owner of approximately 77 percent of the global eye care company. Novartis is also seeking to merge the 23 percent of Alcon it will not own into Novartis, offering minority shareholders 2.8 shares of Novartis for each Alcon share, which values the transaction at $153 a share or another $11.2 billion. Alcon markets drugs for glaucoma and other eye diseases and has several experimental drugs in the pipeline.

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) continued its aggressive push into generics with a collaborative agreement with Indian generics maker Strides Arcolab. Under their agreement, Strides will supply Pfizer with 40 off-patent oral and injectable drugs, many of them cancer drugs, to sell in the United States, with the first products expected to be launched this year. While neither company disclosed financial details of the agreement, Strides Arcolab will receive license payments from Pfizer, including upfront and milestones, and payments related to supply contracts. Strides Arcolab has the largest portfolio of specialty drugs in India and has more than 100 drug applications pending with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer deal continues Strides’ strategy of growth through partnerships with other companies. In 2008 the company entered a licensing and generic drugs supply agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) for 95 emerging market countries.
Japanese pharmaceutical company Kyowa Hakko Kirin signed separate licensing and collaboration deals with two privately-held U.S. biotech companies. In the first deal, Kyowa Hakko and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Dicerna Pharmaceuticals entered into a research collaboration and license agreement for the research, development and commercialization of drug delivery systems and DsiRNA-based pharmaceuticals for therapeutic targets in oncology using Dicerna’s proprietary siRNA technology and molecules. Dicerna will receive $4 million upfront and up to $120 million in additional research funding, development and commercial milestones for exclusive rights to one target in oncology. Depending on its progress, the companies may extend the scope of the collaboration.
In the second deal, Kyowa Hakko entered into a licensing agreement with Irving, Texas biotech Reata Pharmaceuticals for the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Reata's lead compound, bardoxolone methyl (bardoxolone), in Japan and other selected Asian markets. Under the terms of the agreement, Reata is eligible to receive up to $272 million in upfront fees and milestone payments, in addition to double-digit royalties.
In an example of alternative financing, Paul Capital Healthcare will provide up to $100 million to Phase III Development (P3D), a company recently set up to assist in the management and funding of clinical trials in the European Union. At the same time, P3D entered into a definitive agreement with a major global pharmaceutical company to fund the label expansion of a currently approved therapeutic product. Under the terms of their agreement, P3D will assist in the management and funding of phase 3 clinical trials in additional indications for the product, and in return, will get development and regulatory milestone payments related to the late stage trials, a percentage of certain out-licensed product royalties, and a percentage of the revenue generated after the additional indications are approved.
Intuity Medical raised $64 million in a series D financing round from new investors Venrock and Emergent Medical Partners, and existing investors Investor Growth Capital, Thomas, McNerney and Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, and Versant Ventures. The Sunnyvale, California-based company will use the money to commercialize and distribute its integrated blood glucose monitor which combines all the traditional blood glucose testing components into one compact meter and multi-test cartridge system, simplifying diabetes management. The blood glucose self-monitoring market is estimated to be $8 billion worldwide and many diabetics have to test their glucose levels throughout the day.
PhaseBio Pharmaceuticals, a North Caroline biotech focused on the discovery and development of therapeutic fusion proteins, raised $25 million in a series B financing round. New investors New Enterprise Associates and OSI Investment Management, a subsidiary of OSI Pharmaceuticals, led the round, with participation from existing investors Hatteras Venture Partners, Johnson & Johnson Development, and Fletcher Spaght Ventures. In conjunction with the financing, PhaseBio executed a product option agreement with OSI Investment.
PhaseBio is a protein engineering company focused on developing the next generation of biopharmaceuticals. The company's technology is based on biopolymers of elastin-like repeating subunits to which drugs can be attached or peptides and proteins genetically fused, enhancing the pharmacology and delivery of therapeutics.
Finally, DynaVox, a Pittsburgh-based maker of software and devices that assist people in overcoming speech, language or learning disabilities, entered the IPO queue, filing to raise $125 million in an initial public offering. The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq Composite Index under the symbol DVOX. Piper Jaffray and Jefferies are the co-lead underwriters. DynaVox reported $91 million in revenue for its fiscal year ending July 3, 2009 with net income of $1.66 million. Shareholders include Vestar Capital Partners and Park Avenue Equity Partners.

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Source: Biotech Gets a Strong Start in Financing for the New Year