Top 2020 Biopharma M&A Deals


The year 2020 will certainly go down in history as the year of COVID-19. And while a large portion of the biopharmaceutical world pivoted their pipelines to address the novel coronavirus, that didn’t halt a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions.

BioSpace highlights a number of the key M&A deals struck over the past 12 months.

Gilead Sciences Makes Multiple Bets: When Gilead Sciences wasn’t working on remdesivir in COVID-19, the company seemed to be constantly flexing its M&A muscle over the course of 2020. It began in May with the $4.9 billion acquisition of immuno-oncology company Forty Seven and its lead asset, magrolimab, a monoclonal antibody in the clinic for several cancers, including myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Magrolimab targets CD47. In addition to magrolimab, Forty Seven had been driving two other candidates into the clinic, FSI-174, an anti-cKIT antibody, being studied in combination with magrolimab as a novel, all-antibody regimen to assist in stem cell transplantation conditioning regimens, and FSI-189, an anti-SIRP alpha antibody for cancer as well as certain non-oncology settings, including transplantation conditioning.

Gilead Sciences wasn’t done with its dealmaking. In September, the company moved deeper into oncology with the $21 billion acquisition of Immunomedics. That company’s breast cancer treatment Trodelvy, which was granted accelerated approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April for the treatment of adult patients with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (mTNBC) who have received at least two prior therapies for metastatic disease, is expected to become a cornerstone of Gilead Science’s oncology business alongside magrolimab and the CAR-T drug Yescarta, which it gained through its acquisition of Kite Pharma.

In December, Gilead shifted from bolstering its oncology business and strengthened its liver disease pipeline with the $1.4 billion acquisition of Germany-based Myr GmbH, a company focused on developing therapies for treatment of chronic hepatitis delta virus (HDV), the most severe form of viral hepatitis. The acquisition brings Myr’s chronic HDV treatment Hepcludex (bulevirtide) under its umbrella. Hepcludex is an entry inhibitor that binds to NTCP, an essential HBV and HDV receptor on hepatocytes.

AstraZeneca Dives into Rare Diseases: AstraZeneca has been in the spotlight for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate it developed with Oxford University. But the U.K.-based company made waves in December when it acquired Alexion Pharmaceuticals and its rare diseases platform in a $39 billion deal. For AstraZeneca, the acquisition paves a new frontier for its pipeline. AstraZeneca has primarily been focused on oncology, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism and respiratory diseases.

Alexion’s focus is on inhibition of the complement system. The company has a number of branded products in this space, including Soliris (eculizumab), a first-in-class anti-complement component 5 (C5) monoclonal antibody. Soliris has been approved for paroxysmal hemoglobinuria (PNH), atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, generalized myasthenia gravis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. Another of its branded assets is Ultomiris (ravulizumab), a second-generation C5 monoclonal antibody.

Earlier this year, Alexion acquired Portola Pharmaceuticals and its blood disorder treatments for $1.4 billion. Alexion said the acquisition of Portola will bolster its commercial portfolio and create long-term value for its shareholders. The deal brings Portola’s Andexxa [coagulation factor Xa (recombinant), inactivated-zhzo] under its umbrella. Andexxa, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 and is currently the only approved Factor Xa inhibitor reversal agent.

Johnson & Johnson Buys Up Momenta – Life sciences giant J&J acquired Momenta Pharmaceuticals in a $6.5 billion all-cash deal to bolster subsidiary Janssen’s immune-mediated diseases business and drive further growth through expansion into autoantibody-driven disease. As BioSpace previously reported, the asset at the center of the deal is Momenta’s lead candidate nipocalimab, an aglycosylated, effectorless IgG1 anti-FcRn monoclonal antibody that won both Orphan Drug designation and Rare Pediatric Disease designation for the prevention of hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn (HDFN), a serious blood disorder in a fetus or newborn that occurs when red blood cell incompatibility exists between the blood types of a mother and fetus in utero.

When the deal was struck, J&J said nipocalimab provides the company with an opportunity to reach more patients by pursuing indications across many autoimmune diseases with substantial unmet medical need in maternal-fetal disorders, neuro-inflammatory disorders, rheumatology, dermatology and autoimmune hematology.

Nestlé and Peanut Allergies – In August, Nestlé Health Science acquired the outstanding stakes of Aimmune for $2.6 billion in cash to gain control of FDA-approved Palforzia, a first-of-its-kind treatment for patients with peanut allergies. Nestlé Health Science has a history of advancing nutritional therapies. Many of the food products developed by Nestlé contain allergens, including peanuts, so it has made sense the company would support those companies aiming to curb allergic reactions to food products. Nestlé has been a longtime partner of Aimmune, first investing in the company in 2016.

Following the acquisition, Nestlé said Aimmune will serve as the point pharmaceutical business for Nestlé Health Science. The new global business expands Nestlé Health Science’s growth strategy to span a breadth of offerings from with a pharmaceutical business added to its medical nutrition and consumer care offerings. As Aimmune moves forward in this new endeavor, the California-based company said it will maintain its focus on expanding the indication for Palforzia to toddlers and adults, as well as focus on the development of the monoclonal antibody AlMab7195 as a potential treatment of other food allergies.

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