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Illumina-Pacific Biosciences terminate merger; US FDA's drug approvals for 2019

Top news

* Life sciences companies Illumina Inc. and Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. terminated their $1.2 billion merger agreement after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and its U.K. counterpart, Competition and Markets Authority, raised concerns that the deal would allow Illumina to "unlawfully maintain its monopoly" in DNA sequencing. Illumina will pay Pacific Biosciences a $98 million termination fee.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research approved 48 first-of-their-kind therapies in 2019, the second-highest number of new molecular entities cleared for the world's largest pharmaceutical market in the past two decades. The agency set the record in 2018, with 59 new molecular entities approved by the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

* Prices of more than 330 drugs have been increased in the U.S. since the beginning of the new year, Reuters reported citing data from healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors. AbbVie Inc. raised the price of its blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, joining the line of drugmakers that have raised prices this year.

* Novo Nordisk A/S said it will provide a free, one-time, immediate supply of up to three vials or two packs of pens of insulin to people who immediately require the drug and are at risk of rationing the medication.

M&A and capital markets

* Amgen Inc. and China's BeiGene Ltd. completed their $2.8 billion cancer collaboration agreement after meeting the closing conditions of the deal. Under the agreement, Amgen acquired a 20.5% stake in BeiGene by acquiring 15,895,001 American depositary shares at $174.85 each.

* Intrexon Corp. said it is restructuring itself to shift its focus from biotechnology to healthcare under the new name of Precigen Inc. The company, among other things, has executed binding agreements to sell its smaller non-healthcare businesses for $65.2 million, plus certain contingent payment rights.

Drug and product pipeline

* The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said it did not find Akcea Therapeutics Inc.'s medicine volanesorsen as a cost-effective treatment for a rare genetic disorder called familial chylomicronemia syndrome. The country's health cost watchdog issued a draft guidance on the drug and will deliberate further before issuing final guidance.

* Novan Inc. said SB206 was not significantly better than a so-called vehicle in treating a skin condition called molluscum contagiosum.

* Durect Corp.'s stock price dropped Jan. 2 after the company reported that its medicine DUR-928 failed to best placebo in treating patients with mild to moderate plaque psoriasis in a clinical trial.

* Incyte Corp. said its medicine itacitinib failed to meet the main goal of a phase 3 trial in patients with treatment-naïve acute graft-versus-host disease — a complication related to stem cell transplants. The drug was not better than placebo in treating the condition.

Operational activity

* Aurobindo Pharma Ltd. recalled one lot of its depression treatment mirtazapine due to a label error on the medicine's declared strength.

* Pulmatrix Inc. signed a licensing and development agreement with Johnson & Johnson for its portfolio of kinase inhibitors intended to treat lung cancer.

* Novo Nordisk closed a collaboration agreement with Dicerna Pharmaceuticals Inc. to discover and develop therapies for liver and cardio-metabolic diseases using Dicerna's RNAi technology.

* Adamas Pharmaceuticals Inc. granted Sandoz Inc. a nonexclusive license to its medicine Gocovri, settling their ongoing patent litigation. Gocovri was approved by the U.S. FDA in 2017 to treat dyskinesia, or involuntary movements, associated with a commonly prescribed Parkinson's disease treatment called levodopa. Sandoz, Novartis AG's generics unit, can market a generic version of the medicine in 2030, or earlier under circumstances.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng declined 0.32% to 28,451.50, and the Nikkei 225 declined 0.76% to 23,656.62.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 was down 0.46% to 7,569.23, and the Euronext 100 was down 0.66% to 1,150.59.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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