If cash-poor biotechs don't merge, they'll at least have to delay product development, says Damien Conover, Morningside biotech analyst and co-author of a report grading 63 biotechs by acquisition probability.
The top target is Ireland's Elan, (ELN) developer of autoimmune and neurodegenerative therapies.
The company is partnered with Biogen Idec on the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri.
Tysabri is approaching the $1 billion-a-year blockbuster threshold. Worldwide sales of the drug were $218 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, up from $129 million the previous year.
Biogen is a logical acquirer of Elan, Conover says. Buying Elan would give Biogen all of Tysabri.
Elan, in partnership with Wyeth — soon to be Pfizer — also has a phase three trial underway for bapineuzumab, a biologic to fight Alzheimer's.
The drug would be approved by regulators even if it gave only a small improvement, Conover says.
That's because the currently available drugs treat only Alzheimer's symptoms — and not very well.
Biogen is also a potential takeover target, Conover says. It ranks in his report as the second most likely biotech to be acquired