East Coast Biotech Roundup: Bristol, PTC, Ophthotech, & More

5/27/14Follow @benthefidler

More immuno-oncology dealmaking ahead of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, more activity on the biotech IPO front, and some big stock movers on the East Coast this week. Those stories below.

—Another week, another couple of immuno-oncology deals for New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY). The company announced plans to pay South San Francisco, CA-based CytomX $50 million up front, and as much as $1.24 billion overall, to co-develop immuno-oncology “probodies”—monoclonal antibodies CytomX produces that are supposed to selectively activate in the cancer microenvironment and leave healthy tissue unharmed. Bristol will get worldwide rights to CytomX probodies aimed at up to four oncology targets, including CTLA-4—the same so-called “checkpoint” receptor that Bristol’s ipilimumab (Yervoy) binds to. CytomX could get up to $298 million in milestone payments per drug, as well as royalties if they ever hit the market. Separately, Bristol also cut a deal with Wilmington, DE-based Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) to co-fund an early-stage trial testing Bristol’s PD-1 inhibitor, nivolumab, in combination with Incyte’s indoleamine dioxygenase-1 (IDO) inhibitor. Bristol made a similar move a few weeks ago through a deal with Hampton, NJ-based Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CLDX)

—South Plainfield, NJ-based PTC Therapeutics (NASDAQ: PTCT) stunned Wall Street this past week when it revealed that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP)—an advisory panel for the European Medicines Agency—changed its earlier stance and recommended conditional approval for PTC’s Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy drug, ataluren (Translarna). The EMA will now review the panel’s opinion, and is expected to make a decision on the drug within a few months. The EMA said in a statement that PTC’s drug has shown “some evidence” of efficacy, and that the company will have to offer “comprehensive” efficacy data from its ongoing Phase 3 trial as part of the conditional approval. Shares of PTC soared more than 80 percent on the news. Separately, Shane Kovacs, PTC’s CFO, was one of several executives who took part in a biotech roundtable interview with Xconomy’s National Biotech Editor, Alex Lash, about various industry issues.

—New York-based Ophthotech (NASDAQ: OPHT) has said for some time that it would need a partner to help with international sales of its prospective eye drug, Fovista. It got that help this week by cutting a deal with Novartis worth $200 million up front and potentially $1 billion overall. Novartis has gotten non-U.S. rights to Fovista, a potential treatment for the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. Ophthotech is currently running three big Phase 3 studies testing the drug in combination with other wet AMD therapies like Novartis/Genentech’s bevacizumab (Lucentis). Shares of Ophthotech jumped more than 24 percent after news of the deal broke.

—Cambridge, MA-based Radius Health cited shaky market conditions when it postponed its IPO a few weeks ago. Apparently the climate cleared up let up real quick, because Radius filed a new S-1 this past week and decided to give its offering another shot. Radius didn’t provide any pricing information this time around; the company had been hoping to sell 5 million shares at between $14 and $16 apiece before pulling its offering on May 9. Radius’ top shareholders have shifted around a bit since it filed its previous S-1 in February, however. For instance, Nordic Biosciences, which previously held 13.1 percent of the company, was no longer listed as a top shareholder.

—Princteon, NJ-based Agile Therapeutics (NASDAQ: AGRX) was the latest local biotech to have a rough time pricing its offering. The company, which is developing a once-weekly contraceptive patch called Twirla, priced 9,166,667 shares at $6 apiece, raising about $55 million. Agile had hoped to price in the $12 to $14 per share range. Insiders also ended up buying $25 million of the IPO, up from $15 million, to help Agile get out. Shares dipped on first trading day, down to $5.54.

—The Pfizer/AstraZeneca saga appears to finally be over … or, perhaps, just for now. AstraZeneca rejected the New York pharma giant’s final, $118 billion, bid for the British firm last week, and Pfizer officially walked away a few days later. Still, the drama could pick up again down the road. Under British takeover rules, Pfizer can’t make another bid for AstraZeneca for at least six months, unless invited by AstraZeneca to do so before that, but Pfizer could potentially give the megamerger another shot afterwards.

—Cambridge-based Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT) is shelling out about $25 million to buy a manufacturing facility on 26 acres of land in Massachusetts. It’ll use the new plant to make its exon skipping drugs for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Sarepta recently came to a deal with the FDA on a clinical plan that will give it a shot to win accelerated approval of its lead Duchenne drug, eteplirsen. The company expects to file a new drug application with the FDA by the end of the year.

—Summit, NJ-based Celgene (NASDSAQ: CELG) shook up its executive ranks this past week. Mark Alles is moving up from running the company’s hematology and oncology franchise to become president and chief operating officer. Jacqualyn Fouse is switching from the CFO seat to Alles’ former post. Scott Smith, who has been leading the company’s nascent immunology effort since its inception a few years ago, was officially named the franchise’s president. And former Merck CFO Peter Kellogg is stepping in as Celgene’s new CFO.

—Japan’s Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma paid $200 million up front and promised potentially over $2.4 billion more for Norwood, MA-based Boston Biomedical a few years ago to get a hold of a few drug prospects targeting cancer stem cells. Unfortunately for Dainippon, one of those drugs, BBI608, flunked a Phase 3 trial for colorectal cancer this week, sending the Japanese company’s shares tumbling more than 20 percent, according to Bloomberg. Dainippon still intends to a slate of other ongoing studies of BBI608 in various tumor types, however.

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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