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Report: Pfizer Makes $101 Billion Offer to AstraZeneca

Britain’s Sunday Times has reported that Pfizer approached AstraZeneca with a $101 billion purchase offer, which AstraZeneca has resisted. Unnamed investment bank and industry representatives were cited as the sources of the report.

According to the report, informal conversations took place in recent weeks, but no talks are currently taking place. Neither company offered comment on the report.

If the sale were to go through, it would be the largest-ever foreign takeover of a UK business, the Times reports. An AstraZeneca deal also would surpass an earlier pharma deal, the 2000 purchase of Warner-Lambert Co. for $87 billion, as the largest ever, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In 2009, Pfizer purchase Wyeth for $68 billion.

According to Reuters, Pfizer could use cash it has accumulated through overseas subsidiaries for the acquisition; if repatriated to the United States, the funds would be heavily taxed.

The report stirred speculation and rumors in the financial and pharma industries. Both companies face issues with patent expirations of blockbuster drugs, and need to restock their drug pipelines. For now, the “blockbuster” talk is more about financial rumors than

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television show Breaking Bad told the tales of a high school chemistry teacher who, after a diagnosis of advanced cancer, started a methamphetamine laboratory in order to support his family. While this is not the career path the chemical industry wants to endorse, the popular show did demonstrate applied science in action. At InformEx 2014, Donna Nelson, professor of organic chemistry at the University of Oklahoma and a scientific advisor for the program, will discuss her role in the program.

However, InformEx 2014, scheduled for Jan. 21-24 in Miami Beach, Fla., also features more mainstream conference topics. Conference programs are scheduled for Jan. 22-23 and will be located on the show floor. Exhibits are open Jan. 21-24.

The scheduled topics include an analysis of the current state of the pharmaceutical industry, where growth may come from, what new molecules may look like, and services drug manufacturers may require.

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studies, challenges encountered in formulation development and manufacture of clinical trial material when moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2 and 3 studies. Participants can also learn how pharmaceutical companies and CDMOs are aligning sustainability policies and how these programs can generate a significant return on investment.

Other sessions will address vulnerabilities in the chemical supply chain, intellectual property protection, recent advances in chemical technologies for the synthesis of glyochemicals and glycoconjugates, creating value in partnerships between pharma and technology providers, and market opportunities in personalized medicine for the fine, custom and specialty chemicals industry.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, a full day of exhibitor technology showcases are scheduled.

Networking breakfasts, as well as the InformEx 30th Edition Celebration, provide opportunities for interaction.

More than 3,500 attendees from top pharmaceutical, fine chemical and specialty chemical companies — along with 450 exhibitors — will take part in InformEx 2014, organizers report.

If you are in attendance, please visit Pharmaceutical Technology at booth 1321.

Most-Read News Stories of 2013

While the Affordable Care Act, Pope Francis, and the government shutdown were top general news stories in 2013, the bio/pharmaceutical industry had its own headlines. Pharmaceutical Technology analyzed the hundreds of news stories published in 2013, and found the top 10 most-read articles, based on reader clicks. To no surprise, the most-read articles reflect major bio/pharmaceutical business announcements and regulatory activity.

Merck Cuts 8,500 Positions, Moves Headquarters

Scientist Jailed for Falsifying Research Data

FDA Lists Guidance Documents Planned for 2013

Ben Venue Laboratories Enters Consent Decree

FDA Releases SUPAC Guidance

AstraZeneca Announces an Additional 2300 Layoffs

Hameln Pharmaceuticals Receives FDA Warning Letter

Novartis Receives FDA Warning Letter for cGMP Violations at Austrian Plant

Pfizer Voluntarily Recalls Levoxyl

AstraZeneca to Cut 1600 Positions in R&D Reorganization

To stay on top of pharmaceutical industry news in 2014, subscribe to a Pharmaceutical Technology newsletter.

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Analysis of pharmaceutical development, manufacturing, and the supply chain. Subscribe

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Focus on pharmaceutical manufacturing processes and technology, providing analysis of manufacturing news, related regulatory issues, and current trends. Subscribe

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Receive free technical whitepapers and application notes submitted by leading pharmaceutical manufacturing product and solution providers. Subscribe

Budget Showdown Leads to Partial FDA Shutdown

US government agencies, including FDA, faced the first shutdown in 17 years when the House of Representatives and Senate failed to reach agreement on a budget. While national parks and landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty were closed on October 1 and thousands of government workers were idled, FDA expects to retain approximately 55% of its staff during the current partial government shutdown.

According to a Department of Health and Human Services statement, FDA will continue limited activities related to its user fee-funded programs. The agency will also continue “select vital activities including maintaining critical consumer protection to handle emergencies, high-risk recalls, civil and criminal investigations, import entry review, and other critical public health issues.”

The agency reports that it will not support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities and may have to cease safety activities such as “routine establishment inspections, some compliance and enforcement activities, monitoring of imports, notification programs (e.g., food contact substances, infant formula), and the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.

Reviews of pending approvals for several drugs, originally scheduled for early October, were uncertain as of Oct. 1.

A provision by House Republicans to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act appears to be the major sticking point to an agreement. If elected officials get past this roadblock, the next big debate, over increasing the debt ceiling, is just two weeks away.

Big Pharma Leverages Early-Stage Risk with Innovative Options

In recent years, large pharmaceutical companies have launched a variety of initiatives to restock ailing pipelines and boost business performance including mergers and acquisitions, diversifying business portfolios to non-pharmaceutical products, downsizing, spinoffs, and entering the biopharmaceutical arena.

Whatever the approach, pharmaceutical companies want balanced portfolios with programs at various stages and risk profiles, says Melinda Richter, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Prescience International in a BioPharm International podcast.

To date, most Big Pharma companies have partnered or acquired assets of biopharmaceutical companies with products in late-stage development, says Richter. However, as the availability of late-stage development opportunities shrink and the landscape becomes more competitive, Big Pharma is turning to more early-stage partnerships with academia and early-stage companies.

It is attractive to for the pharmas to go after early-stage companies because “by nature, they are smaller, they are nimbler, and they are willing to take the risks that the large pharmas just can’t. These small companies have to swing for the fences and they have to win. Pharmas have a lot to protect. They have to be more conservative,“ says Richter.

More scalable innovation opportunities are another part of the story, says Richter.

For example, last year, Merck announced a $90 million, seven-year commitment for the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), an independent, not-for-profit organization established to accelerate the translation of basic biomedical research to innovative new medicines.

However, for hands-on research, startup companies need laboratory and office space, as well as specialized equipment. Janssen Labs, located on the West Coast Research Center of Janssen Research & Development in La Jolla, Calif., offers short-term leases on wet laboratory and office space.  Tenants also have access to core research facilities and instruments.

The facility, operated by Prescience International, has a “no strings attached” policy. Janssen R&D does not take an equity stake or first right of refusal in the work of tenants, protecting the entrepreneurial rights of startup companies that choose independence.

Janssen Labs and Calibr are two options offered by Big Pharma that will be explored in the session “And Now for Something Completely Different: How Will Pharma Access External Early-Stage Innovation?” at the 2013 BIO International convention on April 23, 2013.


Rare Disease Day: Progress and Potential

The US Orphan Drug Act of 1983 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000.  There are nearly 7000 rare diseases affecting nearly 30 million—or nearly one in 10—Americans, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that approximately 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin; about half affect children. The challenges of facing a chronic, disabling, severe, or even life-threatening disease is compounded by difficulties in receiving an accurate diagnosis, and the lack of therapies to address the condition.

For the past six years, the last day in February has been designated Rare Disease Day. First observed in Europe in 2008 by the European Rare Disease Organization, the initiative expanded to the US in 2009. In 2012, more than 60 countries participated.

This year, events will be held worldwide on Feb. 28 to bring the cause of rare diseases to the attention of patients, the public, the medical profession, and policy makers. For example, the NIH is sponsoring a two-day conference for researchers and policymakers, including FDA representatives, to raise awareness of rare diseases, bring stakeholders closer together, coordinate policy actions between nations, and emphasize rare disease research and the search for new therapeutics.

The Orphan Drug Act provides tax credits and marketing incentives for sponsors to develop products for rare diseases. Since 1983, the number of applications submitted and products designated as orphan drugs has continued to grow. More than 400 drugs and biologic products for rare diseases have been approved.  In contrast, fewer than 10 such products supported by industry came to market between 1973 and 1983.

Drug makers have financial incentives to develop orphan drugs. A 2012 report from Thomson Reuters, The Economic Power of Orphan Drugs, estimated the orphan-drug market at the end of 2011 at $50 billion globally, or 6% of total pharmaceutical sales. However, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8% for 2001 to 2010, compared to a 20.1% CAGR for a matched group of non-orphan control drugs, and an increasing number of orphan-drug approvals, suggests that the growth rate of orphan drugs will exceed that of non-orphan control drugs over the next 30 years, according to the report. Because many orphan drugs are biologics, they are less susceptible to generic competition than small-molecule drugs.

The impact of the smaller population needing the orphan drug is offset by the high cost of the drugs. In fact, the Thomson Reuters study found that 29% of orphan drugs have annual sales greater than $1 billion, about the same percentage as non-orphan drugs.

While the Orphan Drug Act has spurred the development of life-saving and life-improving therapies for individuals with rare diseases, it also has provided financial incentives for drug companies to invest in these narrow specialties. However, as the sponsors of Rare Disease Day point out, there is still much work to be done.