Biotech Day in Review: Big Pharma Merger in Japan

by: Centient Biotech Investor
Mitsubishi Chemical will buy Japanese drug maker Tanabe Seiyaku for $4.3 billion in stock. The move will double the revenues from Mitsubishi’s drug division and, at the same time, create the fifth largest pharma in Japan.

Tanabe has sold Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) Remjicade in Japan since 2002. The Japanese government has put pressure on drug firms to lower prices, forcing the firms to consolidate.

Anacor Pharma out-licensed a topical anti-fungal drug to Schering-Plough (SGP) in a deal that is worth up to $615 million. Anacor will receive $40 million upfront, and Schering-Plough will assume all costs of development.

The drug is currently undergoing Phase II trials for onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nail and nail bed, which affects 7% to 10% of the population. In addition to the $575 million of milestones, Anacor will receive double-digit royalties and the right to co-promote the drug in the U.S. Schering-Plough slipped 11 cents lower to $24.85.

Molecular Insight Pharmaceuticals
(MIPI) staged its IPO, selling 5 million shares at $14 each for gross proceeds of $70 million (see story). The $14 price means the company is worth $344 million, a fairly large number for a company with three drugs in Phase I and II development. The compounds are either radiotherapeutics aimed at cancer or imaging drugs, which will seek to be used to diagnose cardiac ischemia. Molecular Insight ended its first day of trading slightly higher than its IPO price; it closed at $14.09, a gain of 9 cents.

(DNA) reported that Raptiva was effective against psoriasis in patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis of the hands and feet. After 12 weeks of treatment, 46% of the patients had either clear, almost clear or mild forms of the disease, against 18% of the placebo. The drug has been approved for chronic moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis since October 2003. Genentech was up 20 cents at $87.40.

Abbott (NYSE:ABT) announced psoriasis patients were much less likely to see signs of their disease worsen if they used Humira continuously. Abbott will file to have Humira indicated for psoriasis in mid-2007. Humira, a monoclonal antibody, is approved for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and arthritis of the spine. Abbott fell 20 cents to $52.67.

The Data Safety Monitoring Board has told GTx (NASDAQ:GTXI) to continue its pivotal Phase III trial of Acapodene without changing the protocol. A form of the breast cancer drug toremifene, Acapodene is being tested as a treatment for the side effects of androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. GTx rose 16 cents to end at $19.21.

Hollis-Eden Pharma
(HEPH) said HE3286 was effective in a rodent model of arthritis. Even though the disease was well established before therapy was begun, HE3286 increased the frequency of regulatory T cells, which are thought to inhibit development of autoimmune diseases like arthritis. Hollis-Eden edged 4 cents higher to $5.51.

Cell Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CTIC) will effect a one-for-four reverse split on April 2, 2007. The company said the reverse split, together with expected news flow, should put the stock at a price that will be attractive to institutional investors. Cell Therapeutics eased 2 cents lower to $1.60.

Biotech moved lower in the last session of the week, even though it still held a 1% gain for the entire five-day stretch. The Centient Biotech 200™ was down 15 points today at 4067, a loss of .36%. The S&P 500 gained .17% and Nasdaq was up by .30%.

Disclosure: Centient management holds a position in Genentech shares and does consulting work for Genentech.