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PHARMACEUTICAL

Genzyme rejects ‘opportunistic’ Sanofi bid

Sanofi

Sanofi-Aventis is not being bashful about its designs on Genzyme any longer. The French pharma giant has offered $69 (£45) per share in an all-cash bid that values the US biotech at $18.5 billion.

But Genzyme is having none of it: ‘the Genzyme board is not prepared to engage in merger negotiations with Sanofi based upon an opportunistic proposal with an unrealistic starting price that dramatically undervalues our company,’ said chairman and chief executive Henri Termeer in his letter of reply.

The company says the Sanofi offer does not recognise its ongoing manufacturing improvements or pipeline potential.

The offer is actually 1 month old already. Sanofi has gone public to make shareholders aware of what is on the table – ‘a 38 per cent premium over Genzyme’s unaffected share price of $49.86’.

Will it be enough? Analysts have predicted a deal at $74-77. But the absence of alternative bidders could mean Sanofi takes a while to get that high.

In June 2009, Genzyme was forced to temporarily halt production at its Alston Landing site in Massachusetts, US, due to a viral infection. The move meant the company was unable to meet global demand for its two leading drugs, Cerezyme and Fabrazyme.

It also came in the wake of 2008 good manufacturing practice violations identified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), violations Genzyme initially struggled to remedy. The FDA doled out a $175 million fine in May this year.

Bayer licence for Kythera ‘fat reduction’ drug

Botox, resampled

German pharma major Bayer has agreed a $373m licensing deal for the lead candidate of US biotech Kythera, a drug for the reduction of fat under the chin.

Kythera says: ‘clinical studies to date have demonstrated that ATX-101 may effectively reduce localised fat deposits, and is safe and tolerable.’ Two Phase II trials have been completed. Phase III trials are expected to begin in Europe later this year.

Under the terms of the deal, Intendis, a subsidiary of Bayer that focuses on dermatologicals, will acquire rights to the first-in-class injectable outside the US and Canada.

Kythera will receive $43m upfront ‘and may be eligible to receive up to $330 million for certain development, manufacturing and commercialisation milestones’.

‘We see ATX-101 as a strong growth opportunity and an excellent entry point into the aesthetic dermatology business,’ said Intendis president and chief executive Marc Lafeuille.

Analysts have speculated that the market for the drug could be similar in size to that for Botox – perhaps $500-700 million globally.

One to watch in the same area is LIPO-102 by Lithera. The company – founded just 3 years ago – reported ‘positive results’ from Phase II trials for the reduction of abdominal fat.

AstraZeneca strike dates set

AstraZen

September strike dates have been set for AstraZeneca workers following a row that over changes to pensions that has been rumbling on since January.

Trade union GMB has announced that workers at the Macclesfield, UK, site will strike on 8, 15 and 22-23 September. The move is backed by 7O per cent of the members that voted – 165 out of 469 at the site, according to the pharma giant.

The union says the company is effectively ending its defined benefit pension scheme for 2,500 staff.

In a statement sent to Chemistry World, the company said: ‘the changes made ensure all employees continue to have access to pension arrangements that compare favourably to other organisations in the UK’.

Analysts have repeatedly tipped beleaguered AstraZeneca as a potential acquisition target. In January, it announced plans to cut 8,000 jobs globally over the next four years, on top of 15,000 announced across the company since 2007.

But in July, GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Andrew Witty ruled his company – until then perhaps the most likely buyer – out of any bidding.

EU probes possible Pandemrix-narcolepsy link

The European Medicines Agency will investigate whether there is a link between the GlaxoSmithKline flu vaccine Pandemrix and narcolepsy.

Pandemrix was widely used during the recent swine flu pandemic. At least 31 million Europeans have been vaccinated with it since September 2009.

But cases of narcolepsy – a sleep disorder that leads to extreme fatigue and can cause patients to fall asleep at unexpected times – in vaccinated patients have been reported in Sweden and Finland this summer.

On 24 August, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare recommended that vaccination with Pandemrix be discontinued until the suspected link with narcolepsy is evaluated.

The investigating committee will say more in September, when it will discuss action to be taken pending the results.

CHEMICAL

Sabic buys renewable technology for Middle East site

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) has signed a licensing deal with German company Lurgi to produce chemicals derived from plants, at its Jubail, Saudi Arabia, site once construction is complete.

The new production line will go live at the end of 2013, using materials from palm kernel oil and coconut oil. According to Sabic, the plant, which will produce 83,000 tonnes per year of distilled alcohols, will be the first of its type in the Middle East.

‘Sabic’s diversification into oleochemical products is in line with the company’s drive to increase its performance chemicals portfolio,’ said general manager for functional chemicals, Rusmir Niksic. Global business manager for ethoxylates and amines, Turki Al-Hamdan, added: ‘we aim to meet the ever-increasing demand for our products in the Middle Eastern consumer care industry. Furthermore, the natural alcohol plant allows for new investments in downstream industries in the region.’

Andrew Turley

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