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Novartis mulls options for eyecare unit; J&J boss talks R&D tax incentives

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Novartis mulls options for eyecare unit; J&J boss talks R&D tax incentives

* During an earnings call this morning, Novartis AG's CEO Joseph Jimenez said the company is considering all options for its Alcon eye-care division, including keeping the business, after sales stopped declining in the fourth quarter of 2016. The company will review its plan for the eye-care division and could retain the business or exit through a spinoff.

The Swiss drugmaker's fourth-quarter 2016 net earnings fell 11% on a yearly basis to $936 million, or 40 cents per share. Net sales saw a 2% year-over-year decline to $12.32 billion due to cancer treatment blockbuster Gleevec's loss of exclusivity.

* Lonza Group Ltd., meanwhile, reported full-year 2016 net attributable profit of CHF301 million, or CHF5.69 per share, up 8.7% from CHF277 million, or CHF5.26 per share, in the year-ago period. The company expects sales growth in the mid-single digits in 2017, after having recorded an 8.7% year-over-year increase in sales for full year 2016 to CHF4.13 billion.

* Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky spelled out the company's position on the corporate tax and healthcare reforms being discussed in Washington during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call. According to Gorsky, the company believes that incentives should be offered for innovation, such as in research and development, and that a more competitive tax rate on repatriation of money back into the U.S. is needed.

* After nearly four hours of grilling by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee yesterday, it remained unclear on which policies Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the Department of Health and Human Services secretary nominee, may agree with President Donald Trump and on which areas they may differ. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, appeared to disagree with Trump on the president's leanings toward the idea of a connection between vaccines and autism.

* In an interview with the Boston Business Journal, Joseph Gulfo said he has informed Trump's transition team about his interest to take over from Robert Califf as U.S. FDA commissioner. Other potential candidates for the role include Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA deputy commissioner; Jim O'Neill, a tech capitalist; and Balaji Srinivasan, a specialist in computational biology and a tech investor, FierceBiotech noted.

* Intrexon Corp. is acquiring GenVec Inc. in an all-stock transaction. GenVec shareholders will receive 0.297 of an Intrexon common share for each GenVec common share.

Drug and product pipeline

* The European Commission granted orphan designation for Five Prime Therapeutics Inc.'s FPA008 for the treatment of tenosynovial giant cell tumor, a connective tissue tumor also known as pigmented villonodular synovitis.

* TG Therapeutics Inc. said the U.S. FDA granted orphan drug designation covering the combination of TG-1101, the company's anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, and TGR-1202, the company's PI3K delta inhibitor, for the treatment of patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Operational activity

* Perrigo Co. PLC settled a patent litigation with Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. over a dispute after Perrigo sought U.S. FDA approval to commercially market a generic version of Taro's Topicort spray. The FDA concurrently approved the generic spray, which is indicated for the treatment of plaque psoriasis.

* Shandong Wohua Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. said Wang Hongfei resigned as president due to health reasons, Reuters reported. Li Shengting will take over the post.

* Pfenex Inc. Secretary, President and CEO Bertrand Liang resigned following an independent investigation by the company's audit committee that found Liang violated certain bylaws when approving third-party contracts.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.43% to 23,049.12. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.43% to 19,057.50.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.26% to 7,168.66, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.86% to 939.43.

The Daily Dose is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription.