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Archive for 'Biotech Deals'

Seventh Circuit Rules in favor of WARF in Licensing Dispute with Xenon Pharmaceuticals

Written by on Thursday, January 14th, 2010

The Seventh Circuit decided last week in favor of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (“WARF”) in its licensing dispute with Xenon Pharmaceuticals.

As I stated in my Silicon Valley IP Licensing Blog posting on this case, I strongly agree with the outcome in this case and I view this decision as an affirmation of a licensor’s rights in an exclusive license of joint intellectual property.  Had the case been decided differently, I certainly would have had some practical concerns as an IP licensing attorney as to how exclusive licenses to joint intellectual property in collaborations should be drafted.

For another take on this case, you might want to check out PatentlyO, which did not really take a position on the outcome, but provided a little different commentary on the court’s decision.

While this case may not have any groundbreaking precedential value as an intellectual property decision, I think it provides some good practical lessons for anyone drafting or negotiating license and collaboration agreements in the biotech world, whether representing a corporation or working for a tech transfer office at a university, as well as for those who are actually executing the agreements once they are signed.  Clearly, some mistakes were made here that resulted in expensive litigation and will likely result in a costly damage award against Xenon as the loser.

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Gilead Sciences to Buy CV Therapeutics for $1.4 Billion

Written by on Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Gilead Sciences has agreed to buy Palo Alto-based CV Therapeutics for $1.4 billion dollars.

According to SF Gate, Gilead Sciences will pay $20 per share for CV Therapeutics, which reported $154.5 million in revenue in 2008.  Most of that revenue comes from Ranexa, a drug from chronic angina.

Is this a good deal for Gilead Sciences?

Well, SF Gate reported that a Citi investment research analyst backed the deal as making "strategic sense" but described the price as "very steep."

The Mercury News explained the purchase as part of an overall Gilead strategy to acquire other companies and product lines in order to bolster their pipeline, which has been historically focused on HIV drugs.  The Mercury News reported:

[T]he company primarily owes its commercial success to its HIV drugs — Viread, Emtriva, Truvada and Atripla — which won FDA approval respectively in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2006.Those drugs dominate the HIV-drug market and provide the vast majority of Gilead’s revenue, which totaled $5.34 billion in 2008, a 26 percent increase from 2007. On the basis of those sales, Gilead is the world’s third-biggest biotech company, behind Amgen of Thousand Oaks and Genentech of South San Francisco, according to data compiled by investment bank Jefferies & Co.To stay profitable, Gilead has been eager to branch out.

Some commentators, however, have suggested that the real value to this deal for Gilead Sciences is not so much the CV Therapeutics pipeline as it is the CV Therapeutics sales force. 

The In Vivo Blog reported as follows:

[Gilead] has also built a budding cardiovascular franchise centered around its pulmonary arterial hypertension drug Letairis and a Phase III drug for resistant hypertension called daruesentan. There’s a strategic fit argument, therefore, when it comes to Gilead’s buying CVT: the Palo Alto-based biotech provides the company with some additional diversification in a bulked up cardiology franchise–CVT already markets Ranexa and Lexiscan–as well as a ready-made sales force to market the products.

According to In Vivo Blog, there is the potential, however, for one additional Gilead benefit to doing this deal: full ownership rights in Lexiscan may eventually revert to CV Therapeutics, pending the outcome of litigation with Astellas.  if Gilead were to obtain full rights in Lexiscan, In Vivo Blog anticipates that this would be a real boost to Gilead’s bottom line. 

All in all, the consensus seems to be that Gilead took a bit of a financial risk in going forward with this deal, but that the risk is a reasonable one, which is in line with Gilead’s overall business strategy.  In the end, however, only time will tell if the move truly pays off for Gilead.

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Genentech and Roche Agree on Acquisition Deal; Employees End Up as Big Winners

Written by on Saturday, March 14th, 2009

On Thursday, an agreement on the prospective deal we have been discussing for months finally was reached: Roche formally agreed to acquire Genentech for $95 per share at a total price of $46.8 billion.

Who came out the big winner here?  Well, while Roche ended up with the Genentech pipeline prize, it has been suggested that the real winners are the Genentech employees and of course all of the Genentech investors.

The San Francisco Business Journal reported on the deal as follows:

On paper, Roche appears to have won. The final price of $95 per share is only $6 above the July bid. That’s significantly below the $100-plus estimates of many analysts. . . . The final price also is significantly below the $112 to $115 pegged by a Genentech analysis last fall.

However, the deal on paper really doesn’t take into account the significance of the retention program put in place last fall to keep employees from leaving.

The San Francisco Business Journal reported:

According to the retention bonus plan, if the merger occurs by the end of June and 100 percent of outstanding vested stock options accelerate as part of the merger — which is provided under the merger agreement — employees will receive 50 percent of the retention bonus when the merger is completed and 50 percent one year after the merger is completed.

If an employee is “involuntarily terminated” without cause or resigns for “good reason,” the retention bonus is paid out soon after the employee leaves.

Plus, Genentech employees could pocket millions of dollars more from the sale of their stock holdings to Roche.

What does this mean for most employees?  That this deal will provide a nice windfall for them in an otherwise bleak economy.

For Roche, on the other hand, the real battle now is going to be to find a way to retain Genentech’s best and brightest.  Roche may find that to be a much tougher challenge than negotiating to acquire Genentech.

SF Gate reported on this issue as follows:

Among the minority Genentech investors who will receive billions cashing in their stock under the agreement announced late Thursday are the biotech company’s executives and employees. Their windfall, industry experts say, might liberate many of them to launch their own dream companies rather than stick around.

Veterans of Genentech, a quintessential California trailblazer, might chafe at the more formal culture of a pharmaceutical conglomerate based in Basel, Switzerland, insiders say.. . .  .Members of the tight-knit Bay Area biotech community say Genentech staffers have been circulating their resumes, and suitors such as venture firms have been talking them up about possible new enterprises.

So, all in all, while Roche may have come out the winner on this deal in terms of the price per share and winning the Genentech pipeline, there is a good argument that the real winner is not the acquiring company but the Genentech employees and investors.  We will all have to watch over the long-term to see how Roche fairs down the road, and to see whether this deal really pays off for Roche in the future.

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Roche Reported to Be Close to Deal in Genentech Acquisition

Written by on Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Roche is reportedly close to reaching a deal over the Genentech acquisition.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night that the terms of the current deal under consideration would provide for a share price of $95 per share, which is 6% higher than Roche’s initial offer back in July.

Reuters is reporting that a source close to Roche says that the company would pay as high as $105 per share to close the deal, but that the source currently doubts that this will be necessary.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, sources close to the negotations are saying that this is basically a “done deal.”

So, we may finally be on the verge of losing a Bay Area icon.  Before the first Roche bid back in July, it seemed almost unfathomable to imagine the Bay Area biotech community without Genentech.  Now, it is all but a certainty that Genentech will be absorbed into Roche, and we in the biotech world little by little have grown to accept a community without Genentech.

In looking at this deal, it is impossible not to believe that the declining economy played an important role in the negotiations.  As the value of shares tumble, what shareholder wouldn’t seriously consider the possibility of cashing out?  In this case, shareholders knew they had an eager buyer waiting on the sidelines, so as the economy continued to deteriorate, the willingness to sell likely grew.

Furthermore, both Reuters and the San Jose Mercury News are reporting that Genentech at least seems to be growing weary of the shadow of uncertainty hanging over the company.  There is only so long that you can keep a company in limbo and prevent it from disintegrating.  I expect that Genentech is starting to recognize the impact that Roche’s ongoing acquisition efforts are having over the company generally, and that perhaps some key people over at Genentech are starting feel that it is time to move forward with what is increasingly perceived as the inevitable.

So, the California Biotech Law Blog anticipates that an announcement of a done deal is forthcoming.  We will keep you posted as the developments arise.

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Biotech Facing a Long IPO Dry Spell

Written by on Monday, November 3rd, 2008

The biotech industry is facing the likelihood of a long IPO dry spell, which could extend beyond what is being forecasted in other industries, according to a report by Reuters.

According to Reuters, the last biotech IPO was in November 2007 with Nanosphere, Inc., which develops diagnostic tests, and in the last few weeks, over half of the biotech companies in the IPO pipeline have dropped out, including drug delivery company CyDex Pharmaceuticals Inc., Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, which focuses pain management, and Phenomix Corp, which specializes in diabetes treatments. Reuters reports that only  five companies remain in the IPO pipeline.

Instead of IPOs, Reuters reports that biotech companies are continuing to turn to mergers; however, pharmaceutical companies are only interested in biotech companies that have products ready for sale, which means that they need to be past Stage 1 and Stage 2.  Pharmaceutical companies are not interested in investing another five years in research and development right now.  Rather, they are looking for products that can quickly replenish their pipelines.

When the IPO market returns, Reuters reports that biotech companies with marketable therapies for hepatitis C, cancer and Alzheimer’s therapies will be the best prospects for an IPO.

Having said this, Reuters reports that what may delay the return of the biotech IPO is the poor price of biotech stocks, and the fact that the biotech companies who have gone public have not increased their stock prices since their IPO.  Reuters reports:  "Only seven of the 61 biotech companies to have gone public since 2000 are currently trading above their IPO prices."

Thus, it appears that biotech is headed for a long IPO dry spell that is not likely to change course, until after the economy picks back up and the industry can show that IPOs make financial sense.   In the meantime, biotech companies will have to continue to rely on alternative exit strategies.

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Both Roche and Genentech Remain Silent on Status of Acquisition Talks

Written by on Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Both Roche and Genentech are continuing to remain silent on the status of the Roche-Genentech acquisition talks.  For now, employees and investors are left hanging as Genentech’s future continues to be uncertain.

Analysts apparently had hoped to get an update this week during Genentech’s earnings call about the status of the acquisition,  but they were unsuccessful, according to Seeking Alpha’s Mike Huckman.

Huckman wrote regarding the earnings call as follows:

[Roche officials would] only say they remain “totally committed” to the Genentech offer and wouldn’t make any comments or answer any questions about a “negotiated agreement” or its ability to finance the deal. . . .

So many analysts, investors and reporters dialed into the Roche call yesterday morning after it had started that one company official later repeated for the benefit of the latecomers that it wasn’t going to show its hand. Some analysts and investors were banking on a new treatment to force Roche to come back with a much higher offer, but it didn’t pan out Sunday night when Genentech announced the test of Avastin as an add-on drug for colon cancer will continue through the end.

Analysts were similarly unsuccessful in the case of the Genentech earnings call earlier this month, although the subject of the acquisition was at least raised there.  Following the Genentech call, at least one analyst, Eric Schmidt of Cowen and Co., still decided to upgrade Genentech shares from an equivalent of “Buy” to a “Hold.” Schmidt stated in the Genentech call as follows:

While management refused to discuss the Roche situation, we believe a deal is inevitable, and that an agreement would be facilitated by a recovery in the credit markets. We believe large-cap investors seeking economically resilient growth at a reasonable valuation will find Genentech shares attractive.

So, the question remains: will they or won’t they do the deal?

I personally agree with Schmidt that the deal is going to eventually happen–that Roche will come up with a share price that will make it worth Genentech’s while to sell.  It is not so much a question of if but when. . . .

The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to keep you posted as any new developments regarding the deal emerge.

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South San Francisco-based Novacea Merges with Transcept Pharmaceuticals

Written by on Friday, September 5th, 2008

South San Francisco-based Novacea announced its merger this week with Transcept Pharmaceuticals. 

The San Francisco Business Times reported on the terms of the deal as follows:

Under terms of the all-stock deal, Novacea . . . . will issue new shares of its common stock to Transcept stockholders, with Transcept stockholders owning 60 percent of the combined company. The newly issued shares will be based on an exchange ratio that will be determined before the transaction closes by early next year. . . . The name of the merged company, which will have cash of $88 million to $92 million, will be changed to Transcept Pharmaceuticals.

What prompted this deal?  According to the In Vivo Blog, it was the failure of Novacea’s new anti-cancer drug Asentar in trials, which left Novacea with a significant amount of cash on hand and no product.  In Vivo Blog reported:

Since November of 2007, when it stopped its pivotal trial of its anti-cancer drug Asentar because more people were dying on the drug than in the control arm, the writing was on the wall for the company. With something like $90 million in cash and marketable securities as of its last 10Q, Novacea was more valuable as a bank and a listing than as a company.

Will the deal prove to be a win-win for both Transcept and Novacea shareholders?

Well, that’s not entirely clear at the moment. 

According to the San Francisco Business Times, the deal is mutually beneficial to both sides, as it gives Novacea shareholders a "life raft" and provides Transcept a manner by which to go public and fund the final stages of its sleeping drug Intermezzo.  In contrast, the In Vivo Blog expresses some doubts on the outcome of the merger, stating as follows: 

 Whether that’s the right thing for investors is another question: analysis from our colleague Chris Morrison shows that the average share price decline for reverse-merged companies was about 40%, worse even than the declines from IPOs or the biotech index in general. . . .

Thus, while the deal may benefit Novacea shareholders in some ways, it may also have some negative consequences for shareholders on both sides of the transaction.  Only time will tell as to whether or not this deal proves to be a good one for both parties.

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Genentech Launches Employee Retention Program

Written by on Monday, August 25th, 2008

Genentech has launched an employee retention program aimed at retaining employees following the recent bid by Roche to acquire Genentech.

The Mercury News reported that Genentech’s plan is to spend $371 million in cash on retaining its personnel, which the company had planned to spend instead on its employees in a previously established stock option program.  The prevailing wisdom is that spending the money now on cash will be much more attractive than spending the money on stock options to be cashed out in the future.

Will this program help to discourage the departures of personnel who would otherwise choose to leave the company, in light of the uncertainty now about its future?

In all likelihood, the answer to this question is “no.”  Given the current state of the economy and the collapse of the housing market, the average Genentech employee will probably be concerned enough about his or her future to start looking for a new salaried position.  Also, many of Genentech’s employees are already well enough off as a result of the company’s successes over the years to not be swayed by a retention package.  Moreover, the conventional wisdom is that Roche will ultimately be successful in its bid to acquire Genentech, which means that many employee jobs may prove to be on the cutting block wiithin the very near future.

Still, you have to admire Genentech’s attempts to slow down the flow of departing employees out the  company doors.  I feel confident that most observers would agree that spending $371 million on retaining employees in the face of a likely acquisition is an impressive effort to ensure that the company can continue to operate, regardless of what happens with the acquisition effort.  And, of course, such an effort may have the other important effect of maintaining the company’s value as the acquisition talks move forward.  The California Biotech Blog will continue to watch this issue as it unfolds and will report on whether or not these efforts by Genentech prove to be successful.

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Fallout Continues on Roche Bid for Genentech

Written by on Monday, August 18th, 2008

Despite Genentech’s rejection of Roche’s $43.7 billion offer last week, coverage of the fallout from the "failed" bid continues as industry observers speculate on Roche’s next move. 

According to a report by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and San Francisco Business Times, Reuters has forecasted that the final purchase price of Genentech will be $53 billion or $107.50 per share.  According to The Pink Sheet Daily, such a high price could prove to be problematic for Roche, who may be forced to make operational cuts as a direct result of the deal.

Speculation is also growing as to whether or not Genentech is going to be able to keep its talent in anticipation of a potential acquisition by Roche.  SF Gate reported that, as anticipated by analysts, there already is a flurry of recruiter activity erupting at Genentech as a result of the initial Roche bid.  The Pink Sheet Daily noted that it will be difficult to retain Genentech’s current talent, as many of the senior-level people will have no financial incentive to stay.   Of course, it goes without saying that the general atmosphere of uncertainty and the anticipated change of culture will likely start driving employees out the doors of Genentech.  However, observers seem to agree that Roche has likely worked the loss of key Genentech employees into the equation in deciding to pursue a bid to acquire the company. 

The Genentech/Roche deal is viewed as just the first of  a new wave of big pharma acquisitions of biotech companies to come in the near future, as pharma companies continue to explore opportunities to replenish their pipelines.  Seeking Alpha explained as follows:

Big Pharma is feeling the need to find new products with blockbuster potential as several important drugs approach the expiration of their patent protection. . .  . Many large pharmaceuticals have lots of cash on their balance sheets, making acquisitions an affordable option. The weaker dollar has also made U.S. companies look more attractive to biotech and pharmaceutical firms abroad. Another major factor is the difficult process of receiving FDA approval. This lengthy and grueling process provides an additional incentive to buy companies that have already received FDA approval on their drugs, ensuring smooth pipeline production going forward.



Potential buyout targets to keep an eye on: Amylin Pharmaceuticals (AMLN), United Therapeutics (UTHR),  Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN), Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX).

To date, there has been no word on Roche’s next move or when it is likely to take place.  How high will Roche go with the next offer?  The California Biotech Law Blog will keep you posted on any developments.

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Genentech Declines Roche $43.7 Billion Acquisition Offer

Written by on Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Following up on our July 24th posting about Roche’s bid to acquire Genentech, it is now official: Genentech has declined Roche’s $43.7 Billion Acquisition offer.

A Genentech press release explained the decision as follows:

The special committee of the Board of Directors of Genentech, Inc. announced that, after careful consideration, it has unanimously concluded that Roche’s proposal to acquire the shares of Genentech not owned by Roche for $89.00 per share substantially undervalues the company. Therefore, the special committee does not support the proposal. However, the special committee would consider a proposal that recognizes the value of the company and reflects the significant benefits that would accrue to Roche as a result of full ownership.

The Genentech press release further indicated that the special committee also approved the "implementation of a broad-based employee retention program to address any employee concerns created by the Roche proposal."

Will Roche increase its offer, now that its opening bid has been rejected? If so, what will it cost for Roche to close the deal? 

My expectation is that Roche will make another offer and that the next offer will be larger than the first.  However, it is an open question as to how much money Roche will have to pay to get the deal done.  According to Seeking Alpha, the final sale price is likely to be over $105 per share and could even be as high as $130 per share.   Either way, there is no question that Roche is going to have to come up with more money to get the deal done. 

The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to keep you posted as any new developments regarding the Roche-Genentech talks arise.

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