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China coronavirus spreads to South Korea; former NY congressman sentenced

Top news

* Chinese authorities on Jan. 20 reported to the World Health Organization 139 new cases of a novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, spreading from Wuhan, China, to the capital Beijing and the city of Shenzhen, just across Hong Kong's border. The coronavirus is spreading fast, so far infecting over 200 people and leading to three deaths.

The SARS-like virus has also reached South Korea, according to South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There had also been confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Thailand and Japan. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started screening travelers at three U.S. airports entering the country from Wuhan to try to keep a lid on the coronavirus.

* Chris Collins, a former New York Republican congressman who pleaded guilty to insider trading and lying to the FBI, has been sentenced to 26 months in federal prison. A federal district court in New York also fined Collins $200,000 on Jan. 17. Collins was accused in August 2018 of tipping off his son Cameron to insider information about the failure of a study for a multiple sclerosis drug being developed by Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., which changed its name in 2018 to Amplia Therapeutics Ltd.

* Major global drugmakers slashed by 53% the average cost of some off-patent medicines as they bid to be included in China's national bulk-buying program and supply their products to public hospitals, Reuters reported, citing Chinese government officials. The latest bidding round included 122 companies and 33 therapies, with German healthcare conglomerate Bayer AG cutting the price of diabetes drug Glucobay, or acarbose, to 18 Chinese fen per pill — 78.5% lower than the government's price ceiling in December 2019.

* Judge Kenneth Powell of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas significantly slashed the amount Johnson & Johnson has to pay to a man who claimed the company failed to provide adequate warnings on the risks of using its schizophrenia drug Risperdal. The drugmaker will now have to pay $6.8 million in punitive damages instead of $8 billion to Nicholas Murray, though both parties plan to appeal the decision.

M&A and capital markets

* Eli Lilly and Co. is eyeing deals worth between $1 billion and $5 billion every quarter this year, targeting companies focused on immunology, neurology, oncology and pain to expand its pipeline, Lilly CFO John Smiley told Reuters.

* Sanofi's $2.5 billion acquisition of immuno-oncology company Synthorx Inc. received antitrust clearance.

* Piramal Enterprises Ltd. agreed to sell its healthcare insights and analytics business, Decision Resources Group, to Clarivate Analytics PLC for $950 million.

* Cancer drug developer Revolution Medicines Inc. is planning an IPO of up to $100 million of its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Market.

* Healthcare and wellness company Avadim Health Inc. plans to raise about $75 million via an IPO on Nasdaq.

Drug and product pipeline

* AstraZeneca PLC and Merck & Co. Inc. said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted the supplemental new drug application for Lynparza and granted it priority review for HRR-mutated metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The regulator expects to complete the review in the second quarter.

* The FDA granted orphan drug designation to AstraZeneca's Imfinzi and tremelimumab for treating hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer.

Operational activity

* Bayer could be close to reaching settlements in relation to Roundup, the top-selling weedkiller it inherited from the acquisition of Monsanto Co., mediator Ken Feinberg told Reuters. The company is facing over 40,000 lawsuits alleging the glyphosate-based herbicide causes cancer.

* GlaxoSmithKline PLC hopes to select its first drug target and begin a clinical trial with its partner, genetic testing company 23andMe, by the end of 2020, GSK CEO Emma Walmsley told the Financial Times.

* AstraZeneca is investing $500 million in France over five years, including $275 million in research in development, Bloomberg News reported.

The day ahead

U.S. markets were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Jan. 20.

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