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Tech titans to ease access to health data; Icahn concedes to Cigna/Express deal


Essential IR Insights Newsletter Fall - 2023

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Tech titans to ease access to health data; Icahn concedes to Cigna/Express deal

Top news

* Carl Icahn has decided to end his activist campaign against Cigna Corp.'s pending acquisition of Express Scripts Holding Co. after proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis recommended that shareholders approve the transaction. Icahn has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that he no longer intends to solicit proxies to vote against the transaction.

* Technology giants such as Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s unit Google and Microsoft Corp. pledged to remove technological barriers to healthcare and improve patient access to healthcare data in order to boost outcomes while bringing down costs. In a joint statement via the Information Technology Industry Council, the tech rivals called for "open standards, open specifications, and open source tools … to facilitate frictionless data exchange" between patients and healthcare providers.

* Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. booked an 87% year-over-year rise in adjusted net profit to 9.83 billion Indian rupees, or 4.09 rupees per share, for the fiscal first quarter ended June 30. The Indian drugmaker reported sales of 71.39 billion rupees during the quarter, a 16% increase from a year earlier.

* Novartis AG appointed Klaus Moosmayer the chief ethics, risk and compliance officer, effective Dec. 1. Moosmayer is the chief compliance officer of technology company Siemens AG.

On the policy front

* The Democratic Republic of the Congo began administering the experimental mAb114 Ebola treatment, developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in patients in the Congo's North Kivu province, Reuters reported. The outbreak has spread to neighboring Ituri province, where a man has died from the virus, the country's health ministry said.

Several other experimental therapies are awaiting approval from an ethics committee, including remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. as GS-5734, favipiravir, developed by Fujifilm Corp. unit Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd. as Avigan, and REGN3450, REGN3471 and REGN3479, developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

* Though the most recent Ebola outbreaks have been relatively small compared with the 2014-2016 epidemic, enthusiasm from biopharmaceutical companies, global agencies and other international partners has not waned in the pursuit for an effective vaccine against the virus, Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Fauci noted that experimental vaccines from Merck & Co. Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Johnson & Johnson are being tested against Ebola. Fauci said the NIH also has enough funding to complete its ongoing Ebola vaccine trials.

* The U.S. opioid epidemic has "peaked," Toby Cosgrove, former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, told CNBC, noting that people are "prescribing fewer drugs and people are recognizing how serious this is." Cosgrove, however, said addiction to opioid-based drugs remains a major health risk for Americans.

M&A and capital markets

* Shares in SalvaRx Group plc more than doubled after the London-listed biotech announced that it is selling its 94.2% stake in unit SalvaRx Ltd. to Canada-listed Portage Biotech Inc. for US$67.5 million. Portage will issue 757,943,784 new shares, equivalent to about US$75.8 million, as payment for SalvaRx.

* U.K.-based healthcare technology company Sensyne Health Ltd. raised £60 million via its IPO on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. The company, which is led by former British government minister and biotech entrepreneur Paul Drayson, priced its shares at £1.75 per ordinary share.

* Aridis Pharmaceuticals Inc. priced its IPO of 2 million common shares at $13 each. The San Jose, Calif.-based anti-infection drug developer expects gross proceeds of $26 million from the offering.

* Eton Pharmaceuticals Inc. filed for an IPO to list its common shares on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol ETON. The Deer Park, Ill.-based pharmaceutical company plans to sell shares priced at $6 each.

Drug and product pipeline

* The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence did not recommend Biogen Inc.'s rare muscle disease treatment Spinraza for use under the National Health Service. The U.K. price watchdog said there were significant uncertainties regarding Spinraza's long-term benefits, and cited an extremely high cost for turning down Spinraza in its draft guidance, adding that even after the proposed confidential discount, the therapy was not found to be cost-effective.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Mylan NV's generic version of Eli Lilly and Co.'s Adcirca, a treatment for high blood pressure to improve exercise ability. The Canonsburg, Pa.-based generic-drug maker has launched tadalafil in 20-milligram tablets in the U.S., the first generic version of Adcirca.

* Cranbury, N.J.-based Amicus Therapeutics Inc. said its recently approved Fabry disease treatment, Galafold, would cost, on average, $315,000 per year in the U.S. The therapy will be cheaper than Sanofi's Fabrazyme, the current standard of care, which Amicus estimated had an average annual list price of $344,000.

* The FDA accepted for review U.K.-based Circassia Pharmaceuticals PLC's applications for lung disease treatments Duaklir and Tudorza. Both drugs are designed to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a progressive lung disease that causes breathlessness.

Our features

CDC Foundation CEO warns of 'Disease X,' cites donor-research 'firewall': As president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, Judith Monroe is focused on developing public-private partnerships that advance the mission of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the foundation is not without critics.

Other features

* Biotech companies including Spark Therapeutics Inc. and BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. are racing to successfully develop a treatment for hemophilia, a rare bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot normally, after years of facing setbacks, The New York Times wrote.

* According to experts, China and South Korea are overtaking India in the export of vaccines, The Press Trust of India has a report.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, Hang Seng dropped 0.66% to 27,752.93, while the Nikkei 225 gained 2.28% to 22,356.08.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 gained 0.02% to 7,643.69, and the Euronext 100 rose 0.43% to 1,065.51.

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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