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Bristol-Myers, Nektar in $1.85B cancer venture; Shire, Otsuka, CSL earnings rise

Top news

* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is partnering with Nektar Therapeutics to investigate a combination of the companies' cancer treatments. Bristol-Myers will make an up-front cash payment of $1 billion and an equity investment of $850 million, plus potential $1.78 billion in milestone payments, to develop and commercialize Nektar's NKTR-214 in combination with either Opdivo or Opdivo plus Yervoy.

* Dublin-based biotechnology company Shire plc reported fourth-quarter 2017 non-GAAP net income of $1.21 billion, or $3.98 per American depositary share, up from $1.02 billion, or $3.37 per ADS, a year ago.

* Japanese drugmaker Otsuka Holdings Co. Ltd. said full-year 2017 profit attributable to owners amounted to about ¥112.49 billion, or ¥206.99 per share, up from about ¥92.56 billion, or ¥170.70 per share, in the year-ago period.

* CSL Ltd. reported first-half net profit after tax of about $1.09 billion, or $2.39 per share, an increase from $805.5 million, or $1.76 per share, a year earlier.

* Inc. is eyeing expanding its business-to-business marketplace, Amazon Business, into a major medical supplies distributor as the e-commerce giant pledges to disrupt the healthcare sector with a recently announced health alliance with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Wall Street Journal reported, citing hospital executives invited to Amazon's Seattle headquarters to discuss the idea.

Stocks of healthcare distributors plunged yesterday following the news on Amazon, as well as reports that Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is in talks to acquire drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., the Journal noted. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission's announcement of antitrust charges against Benco Dental Supply Co., Henry Schein and Patterson Companies also helped drag shares down.

M&A and capital markets

* China's Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd. is buying about 40% of GNC Holdings Inc. for $300 million and plans to offer the Pittsburgh-based specialty retailer's products in the country through a joint venture.

* Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma Inc. fully acquired Seattle-based biotech Universal Cells Inc. for up to $102.5 million in up-front and milestone payments.

* U.K.-based Mallinckrodt Plc completed the $1.2 billion acquisition of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals Inc.

* Branford, Conn.-based biopharma company BioXcel Therapeutics Inc. plans to raise up to $69 million in its IPO.

Drug and product pipeline

* Exelixis Inc. said the phase 2 trial of its cancer drug Cabometyx, or cabozantinib, showed a reduction in tumor size when used as an initial treatment for a type of thyroid cancer.

* Advaxis Inc. filed a conditional marketing authorization application with the European Medicines Agency, seeking approval for its medicine axalimogene filolisbac to treat cervical cancer patients whose disease progressed despite treatment.

* Merck & Co. Inc. will stop a phase 3 trial of its drug verubecestat in patients with prodromal, or very early, Alzheimer's disease, based on a determination that it is unlikely to meet the study's primary goal.

* Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s phase 3 clinical trial of eravacycline, its treatment for complicated urinary tract infections, failed to achieve its main goals. Eravacycline is marketed by Merck & Co. as Invanz.

* The European Medicine Agency's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee advised patients against taking Allergan plc and Gedeon Richter Plc's Esmya, or ulipristal acetate, which is approved for treating women with moderate to severe symptoms of uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors of the womb.

Operational activity

* Novartis AG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation forged an alliance to advance the development of the Swiss drugmaker's KDU731 for treating cryptosporidiosis, the second leading cause of infectious diarrhea in children.

* Bayer AG sued Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service over its handling of the investigation relating to the German group's planned deal with U.S. seedmaker Monsanto Co., Reuters reported.

Our features

Iovance aims to bring new cancer therapy to market, put past woes behind: Iovance Biotherapeutics is putting past challenges in the rearview mirror as it nears the filing date for a new cancer-fighting technology — and could be seeking partners to market the product globally, according to CEO Maria Fardis.

AmerisourceBergen may be latest pharma chain M&A target after Walgreens report : AmerisourceBergen, a medical distributor for roughly one-third of the U.S. market, could be the next acquisition target in a pharmaceutical supply chain shuffle featuring major healthcare retailers, providers and even some industry outsiders.

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Other features

* Reuters carries a report on the impact of biosimilars on Roche Holding AG's sales.

* GlaxoSmithKline PLC led the list of vaccine makers with the highest sales in 2017. The company generated £5.16 billion from vaccine sales, trumping Merck & Co., Sanofi and Pfizer Inc., FiercePharma noted.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng grew 2.27% to 30,515.60, and the Nikkei 225 was down 0.43% to 21,154.17.

In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.77% to 7,222.91, and the Euronext 100 had climbed 0.74% to 999.86

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