9 Top M&As in the First Half of 2023

Pictured: Crossing wooden rings/Courtesy, iStock, cagkansayin

Pictured: Crossing wooden rings/Courtesy, iStock, cagkansayin

The year 2022 proved challenging for mergers and acquisitions in the pharma and life sciences industry. While notable high-value acquisitions did take place, such as Amgen’s $27.8 billion bid for Horizon Therapeutics and Pfizer’s $11.6 billion move on Biohaven, the overall M&A landscape fell short of many expectations.

In some ways, that lackluster trend has continued into this year, highlighted by a muted tone at what is traditionally a spate of new deals at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January. This may be in part due to the fact that acquisitions have faced increased scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission of late. In May, the FTC filed a suit claiming Amgen’s acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics may pose a monopolist threat. Moreover, big pharma players stated that biotech valuations had not reached realistic levels, and many companies were being selective in how they allocated their funds in the current economic climate.

Nevertheless, the first half of 2023 saw nine deals worth $1 billion or more. BioSpace assembled a list of these mega M&As and will continue to track activity in the industry as the year progresses. After all, a struggling biotech market should present ample opportunities for big pharmas to acquire companies with enticing assets to bolster their pipelines.

1. Pfizer Snatches Up Seagen to Expand Oncology Pipeline

  • Date: March 13
  • Deal value: $43 billion

Pfizer acquired Seattle-based biotech Seagen for $43 billion, just missing the list of top 10 biopharma deals of all time. This move aims to fuse Seagen’s antibody-drug conjugate technology with Pfizer’s expertise, fortifying Pfizer’s standing within the oncology market and empowering the development of new therapies. Pfizer’s offering came in at $229/share, outbidding others, including Merck and Sanofi.

2. Merck Snags Prometheus Biosciences to Bolster Immunology Pipeline

  • Date: April 17
  • Deal value: $10.8 billion

After exploring the possibility of acquiring San Diego–based Seagen in 2022, Merck ultimately decided against it. Instead, the prominent pharmaceutical powerhouse agreed to acquire Prometheus Biosciences for approximately $10.8 billion. Merck snagged all outstanding shares of Prometheus for $200 per share.

This move allowed Merck to obtain an experimental treatment known as PRA023, designed for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The acquisition strengthens Merck’s position in the field of immunology.

3. Astellas Pharma Nabs Iveric Bio and its Blindness Therapies

  • Date: May 1
  • Deal value: $5.9 billion

Astellas will acquire New Jersey–based Iveric Bio for $5.9 billion, making this its largest acquisition to date. Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas will pay $40 per share to secure Iveric

The acquisition grants Astellas access to multiple programs for the treatment of geographic atrophy due to age-related macular degeneration, including one with a PDUFA date set for August.

4. Novartis Expands in the Renal Space, Acquiring Chinook Therapeutics

  • Date: June 12
  • Deal value: $3.5 billion

Novartis acquired Seattle-based Chinook Therapeutics, a prominent player in kidney therapeutics, in a deal valued up to $3.5 billion, $40 per share. Specifically, Novartis will provide an initial cash payment of $3.2 billion and has committed to additional contingent value rights of up to $300 million.

Novartis will gain access to Chinook's two advanced-stage assets currently under late-stage clinical development for immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN). IgAN is a rare, progressive autoimmune kidney disease.

5. Sanofi Snags Provention, Expanding Diabetes Portfolio

  • Date: March 13
  • Deal value: $2.9 billion

Sanofi acquired New Jersey–based Provention Bio, a leading diabetes company, for $25 per share, resulting in a total transaction value of $2.9 billion. This acquisition grants Sanofi exclusive rights to Tzield (teplizumab-mzwv), a drug developed to delay the onset of stage 3 type 1 diabetes. Tzield received approval from the FDA in November 2022, making it the first-ever disease-modifying treatment capable of slowing the progression of this condition.

6. Lilly Obtains DICE Therapeutics and Its Drug Discovery Platform

  • Date: June 20
  • Deal value: $2.4 billion

To expand its range of treatments for autoimmune diseases, Eli Lilly acquired DICE Therapeutics, a biopharma company based in San Francisco. Lilly reported that the deal is valued at over $2 billion, at $48 per share.

The agreement will grant Lilly the opportunity to use DELSCAPE, DICE’s drug discovery and development platform. This platform is designed to optimize the creation of small molecule drugs, allowing for efficient disruption of protein-protein interactions.

7. GSK Grabs Bellus Health, Including Potential Blockbuster for Chronic Cough

  • Date: April 18
  • Deal value: $2 billion

GSK will acquire Canada-based Bellus Health for approximately $2 billion, $14.75 per share. This strategic acquisition will grant GSK access to camlipixant, a treatment for refractory chronic cough. Camlipixant, Bellus’s lead candidate, is a highly-selective antagonist of the P2X3 receptor.

GSK stated that it expects this acquisition to serve as a catalyst for higher earnings per share, with the positive effects expected to begin in 2027. The company recognized significant sales potential for camlipixant until 2031.

8. AstraZeneca Bags CinCor Pharma and Its Hypertension Pipeline

  • Date: January 9
  • Deal value: $1.8 billion

AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Cincinnati, Ohio–based CinCor will bolster its cardiorenal pipeline as CinCor develops therapies targeting hypertension and chronic kidney disease. AstraZeneca has agreed to a proposal of $26 per share or $1.3 billion upfront for the acquisition.

Additionally, a payment of $10 per share is contingent upon a specific regulatory filing concerning CinCor’s drug candidate, baxdrostat—an aldosterone synthase inhibitor. Baxdrostat is under investigation as a treatment to lower blood pressure in patients with treatment-resistant hypertension.

9. Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Scores VectivBio, with Several Rare Disease Treatments

  • Date: May 23
  • Deal value: $1 billion

Ironwood Pharmaceuticals entered into a definitive agreement to acquire VectivBio, a Swiss biopharma. This all-cash deal is valued at approximately $1 billion or $17 per share.

VectivBio specializes in researching, developing and commercializing treatments for various rare conditions, including acute graft versus host disease and short bowel syndrome with intestinal failure.

Lisa Munger is a senior editor at BioSpace. You can reach her at lisa.munger@biospace.com. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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