* Merck & Co. Inc.'s rVSV-ZEBOV experimental vaccine was successful in preventing Ebola infection in humans, according to a study published in The Lancet. The trial, led by the World Health Organization and Guinea's Ministry of Health among other partners, recorded no cases of Ebola after a 10-day incubation period in its final stage.
* Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. agreed to pay $519 million to the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC in a settlement of charges to bribe government officials in Ukraine, Mexico and Russia. The company admitted that its executives and employees bribed a high-ranking Russian government official to boost sales of its multiple sclerosis drug, Copaxone, during annual drug purchase auctions held by the country's Ministry of Health.
* According to The Wall Street Journal, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for the Health and Human Services Department traded stocks in almost 40 healthcare-related companies while in office, including Pfizer Inc., Amgen Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Tom Price, R-Ga., also sponsored nine and co-sponsored 35 healthcare-related bills in the House that may have affected the companies' stock prices, the publication said.
M&A and capital markets
* Pfizer acquired AstraZeneca PLC's late-stage small molecule anti-infective business for an upfront payment of $550 million and a further $175 million in January 2019. Pfizer gained commercialization and development rights to the unit's products which are primarily outside the U.S. and is required to make $250 million in commercial, manufacturing and regulatory milestones.
* PerkinElmer Inc. plans to sell its medical imaging business to Varian Medical Systems Inc. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2017.
* Prestige Brands Holdings Inc. agreed to acquire fellow competitor C.B. Fleet Co. for $825 million cash. The move will help bolster Prestige's women's health, gastrointestinal and pediatric care portfolio, and is expected to add approximately $1 billion in pro forma revenues in fiscal 2018.
* Japan's Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co. Ltd. said it will acquire U.S. biotech startup Tolero Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $220 million in upfront and other milestone payments. Tolero Pharmaceuticals specializes in therapeutic agents in oncology and hematological disorders.
Drug and product pipeline
* Japan's Health Ministry began drafting guidelines for physicians to reduce antibiotic use to two-thirds of the current level in Japan, according to PharmaJapan. The manual is part of a global effort urged by the World Health Organization to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
* Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Plecanatide showed superiority compared to placebo in its second phase 3 trial involving adult patients with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. The drug is being reviewed for the treatment of chronic idiopathic constipation by the U.S. FDA.
* Ligand Pharmaceuticals signed a global license and supply agreement with Novartis AG for development and commercialization of a Captisol-enabled liquid formulation of trametinib, a cancer drug. Captisol optimizes the solubility and stability of drugs.
* Meanwhile, Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. secured a global license for Ligand Pharmaceuticals' OmniAb platform to discover antibody-based treatments for diseases.
* In other news, Poxel SA CFO Eric Massou resigned to pursue other professional opportunities. Massou's replacement will be announced in the first quarter of 2017.
* Horizon Pharma PLC secured preliminary approval for a U.S. patent that would cover its Ravicti oral treatment for urea cycle disorders in patients older than two years of age.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 0.28% to 21,574.76.
In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 2.01% to 7,065.69 while the Euronext 100 increased by 0.06% to 929.40.
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