Merck sells biosimilars business to Fresenius

Merck has divested its biosimilars business to fellow German drug maker Fresenius in a deal potentially worth 670 million euros. The drug maker said the move is aligned with a strategy of focusing on innovative medicines while enabling it to exploit its biosimilars portfolio – which is focused on cancer and anti-inflammatory medicines – to full potential. Merck will bank an upfront fee of 170 million euros and milestone payments of up to 500 million euros under the deal, as well as royalties on future product sales. The parties have also agreed to enter into supply and services agreements, which include drug development support and manufacturing services. Separately, Fresenius also announced its intent to buy US generic drug maker Akorn for $4.75 billion.

AbbVie’s PARP inhibitor fails in Phase III trials

AbbVie’s experimental PARP inhibitor veliparib has failed to meet key targets in two late-stage studies testing its potential in lung and breast cancer. The studies were assessing veliparib in combination with the chemotherapy regimen carboplatin and paclitaxel in patients with squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). In the lung cancer trial, the primary endpoint was improvement in overall survival in a group of patients who had smoked within the past 12 months and had more than 100 smoking events in their lifetime. In the breast cancer study, the primary endpoint was complete pathologic response to treatment, while secondary endpoints included breast conservation rate, overall survival and event-free survival.

Pharma heads call for decision on EMA relocation

Pharma chiefs in Europe are calling on heads of state to reach a prompt decision on the new location for the European Medicines Agency, which is to depart from the UK as a result of Brexit. The Agency was set up in 1995 to act as a central point for the evaluation and monitoring of medicines for member states and countries in the European Economic Area. In an open letter on its proposed relocation, the region’s pharmaceutical industry heads of research and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) stress that “it is a stark and alarming reality that such fundamental activities would undoubtedly be impeded were the operations of the agency to be disrupted as a result of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. To put it concisely: in the event of obstruction or failure, Europe possesses no backup option.”

Biogen looks to M&A to overcome competition to its MS franchise

With its multiple sclerosis medications under pressure, Biogen is looking to M&A to boost its future. It hopes to do deals that would build on the success it’s enjoyed with neurology drugs, while also looking at new areas, like it did with its new and pricey rare-disease drug Spinraza. Biogen kicked its efforts off this month when it agreed to pay Bristol-Myers Squibb $300 million upfront and up to $410 million in milestones to get its hands on BMS-986168, an anti-tau antibody seen as a treatment for progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to supplementing its neurology expertise, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech is looking at buying some pipeline help in the areas of eye diseases and chronic pain. He pointed at Biogen’s late 2016 approval of Spinraza, a treatment for the lethal muscle disease spinal muscular atrophy as an example of what it might do.