In the largest deal of the month and the second largest M&A of the year, AbbVie announced its $63 billion acquisition of Allergan. It is no secret that AbbVie’s blockbuster Humira—currently the biggest-selling drug worldwide—could face increased competition from biosimilars in the next few years. The acquisition of Allergan is anticipated to help plug the resulting revenue loss, particularly with sales from Botox, which brought in sales of $860 million last quarter. Allergan and AbbVie’s combined portfolio will cover the areas of immunology, hematologic oncology, medical aesthetics, neuroscience, women's health, eye care and virology.
AbbVie wasn’t the only big pharma company to make a major acquisition, with Pfizer purchasing Array Biopharma in a deal worth $11.4 billion. Pfizer will strengthen its position in oncology by gaining Array’s small-molecule drug portfolio, including the BRAF kinase inhibitor Braftovi (encorafenib) and the MEK inhibitor Mektovi (binimetinib), which are approved for use in combination for the treatment of BRAF-mutant melanoma and have recently generated promising clinical data in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer. Array also has an extensive pipeline of other kinase inhibitors.
Also strengthening its position in oncology in June, Merck & Co. announced that it would acquire Tilos Therapeutics. Tilos is developing antibodies that target signalling by the cytokine TGFβ through binding to a latency-associated peptide (LAP) that holds TGFβ in a latent state. LAP-specific antibodies can stabilize the LAP–TGFβ complex and prevent release of the active cytokine, and are in development for cancer and fibrosis, while other antibodies can destabilize the complex and could be applicable in autoimmune diseases.
Gilead, also on the hunt for cancer therapeutics, meanwhile signed a potential $2.35 billion deal to license Nurix's technology for targeted protein degradation with small-molecule drugs—a burgeoning field with companies including Celgene, C4 Therapeutics, Kymera and Arvinas, which recently began a pioneering clinic Gilead paid $45 million upfront, and has the option to license potential drugs identified using Nurix’s degradation technology for up to five disease targets. Nurix has the potential to receive up to ~$2.3 billion based on preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercialization milestones, as well as royalties on sales.
Finally, in another platform technology-focused deal, Vertex acquired Exonics Therapeutics for $245 million, as well as committing to milestone payments that could bring the total deal size to around $1 billion. Exonics Therapeutics is developing gene-editing therapeutics for a variety of genetic diseases including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Simultaneously, Vertex announced it would expand its existing collaboration with CRISPR Therapeutics to progress gene-editing therapies for DMD and myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). Vertex will pay $175 million upfront to CRISPR Therapeutics for intellectual property, including foundational CRISPR/Cas9 technology, novel endonucleases and AAV vectors for gene-editing products for DMD and DM1, and up to $1 billion in research, development, regulatory and commercial milestones.