Week in Review: Licensing Deals, M&A, EU Regulators on a Tear, Latest in IRA Battle

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Pictured: Illustration of money exchanging hands/iStock, MagicVectorCreation

Deals, deals and more deals were the highlight this week. It started Monday with a potential $1.8 billion licensing deal between Johnson & Johnson and French biotech Nanobiotix, with the former licensing the latter’s lead product intended to enhance the efficacy of radiotherapy in various tumor types.  

Also on Monday, Chinese biotech BeiGene announced that it has acquired an exclusive license of an investigational antibody-drug conjugate for $1.3 billion from Shanghai-based DualityBio, providing the biotech with clinical, manufacturing and commercial rights for the preclinical ADC therapy for select solid tumors.  

However, it wasn’t all good news for BeiGene this week. Tuesday, Swiss pharma Novartis ended its agreement with the company for option rights to ociperlimab, an anti-TIGIT checkpoint inhibitor, less than two years after the collaboration began.  

Also, this week saw some encouraging signs that the biopharma industry’s busy M&A pace in the first half of 2023 may continue. Late Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Roche was in talks with Roivant Sciences to buy its late-stage stomach drug candidate for more than $7 billion, according to sources familiar with the discussions. 

And on Friday morning, Eli Lilly announced plans to pay up to $1.925 billion to acquire biopharma Versanis and its lead asset, bimagrumab, a monoclonal antibody designed to reduce fat mass without impacting muscle mass. Lilly’s acquisition comes as the weight-loss drug market continues to heat up. 

However, those kinds of medications may carry with them potential risks for users, specifically suicide and self-harm ideation. The European Medicines Agency this week extended its review of a potential suicide risk associated with Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Saxenda to other GLP-1 receptor agonists used for weight loss and treating type 2 diabetes. 

European regulators also flexed their regulatory muscles this week when the European Commission on Wednesday slapped Illumina with a record $476 million fine for going ahead with its proposed merger with cancer detection biotech Grail. 

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the FDA Thursday approved Perrigo Company’s Opill (norgestrel), the first oral contraceptive pill to be available in the U.S. without a prescription. Perrigo has not announced the price point of Opill. 

Drug pricing continued to be a contentious issue this week as it relates to the Inflation Reduction Act. Tuesday, Merck filed a motion for summary judgment asking a federal judge to rule on its IRA case against the Biden administration without going to trial. And Wednesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a motion for preliminary injunction with a federal court in Ohio, trying to stop the IRA’s Drug Price Negotiation Program.          

Greg Slabodkin is the News Editor at BioSpace. You can reach him at greg.slabodkin@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.    

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