Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ALXN has been in the spotlight as a potential takeover target from the onset of 2019, after the mega-merger announcement of Bristol-Myers BMY and Celgene CELG.
Notably, a slowdown in mature products due to the increasing competition and rise of biosimilars have forced most pharma/biotech behemoths to target lucrative buyouts in this space to bolster their pipelines. Evidently, the focus is back on mergers and acquisitions. The recent spree of consolidations is expected to continue with both big and small biotech stocks, which have a dominant position in the lesser competitive arena of rare diseases and NASH and are well-equipped with path-breaking technology, respectively.
Here we look at the factors, which make Alexion a hot target for a takeover.
Alexion primarily focuses on developing and commercializing drugs for the treatment of patients with ultra-rare disorders. The market potential of these drugs is significant, with less competitive pressure. The company's blockbuster drug, Soliris (approved for the treatment of two severe and ultra-rare disorders — paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria [PNH] and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome [aHUS]), continues to perform well. The FDA approval of the generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) indication has boosted the drug’s prospects further.
Additionally, to combat generic competition for Soliris, once it loses patent protection, Alexion developed a long-acting C5 complement inhibitor, Ultomiris, for the treatment of adults with PNH, which consolidated its PNH franchise. The initial uptake of the drug has been strong. The company is working to expand the drug’s label into various other indications.
Concurrently, Alexion is looking to strengthen its pipeline with acquisitions and collaborations. It acquired Sweden-based Wilson Therapeutics and added a late-stage candidate, ALXN1840, to its pipeline. It also acquired a clinical-stage biotechnology company, Syntimmune. The company has also collaborated with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals to jointly discover and develop up to four subcutaneously-delivered GalXC RNA interference (RNAi) candidates. Additionally, it entered a partnership with Complement Pharma to co-develop the preclinical C6 complement inhibitor, CP010, for neurodegenerative disorders.
Notably, the company was recently in news on the speculations of a potential buyout by biotech bigwig Amgen AMGN. However, Amgen decided to purchase Celgene’s plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis drug Otezla, thereby quashing the rumors of acquiring Alexion. Consequently, Alexion’s stock declined.
The company recently announced the departure of its current chief financial officer, Paul Clancy, later this year. Clancy will be succeeded by Aradhana Sarin, M.D., who is currently the chief strategy and business officer of the company. The stock most likely declined due to uncertainties regarding this transition.
Nevertheless, with a strong portfolio of rare diseases drugs and a solid pipeline, Alexion is a potential target for big pharma companies looking to foray into the rare diseases market.
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