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J&J eyeing potential sale of diabetes unit; GOP senators propose ACA option

* Johnson & Johnson is evaluating "potential strategic options" for its diabetes care business that may include a sale of the division. The company made the announcement in its fourth-quarter 2016 earnings release, reporting an 18.6% year-over-year increase in net earnings to $3.81 billion, or $1.38 per share.

* Donald Trump started his first week as president by calling on 12 business leaders, including Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, to help the new U.S. commander-in-chief identify ways to create more American jobs and grow the nation's manufacturing base.

* U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., said states should be allowed to choose between retaining the Affordable Care Act or adopting a replacement in an attempt to garner Democrat support for repealing Obamacare, Reuters reported.

* Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. will benefit from Merck & Co. Inc.'s success with a rival cancer drug, even as the medicine they developed is losing momentum. Under a global agreement to settle a patent-infringement lawsuit, Merck will make an initial payment of $625 million to the two companies as well as pay royalties on Keytruda sales through Dec. 31, 2026.

* Pfizer Inc. CEO Ian Read expressed optimism about the new U.S. administration's policies toward healthcare companies, as he and his peers attributed growing public mistrust in the drug sector to industry outliers.

* Elsewhere, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America launched a new television commercial to convince the public that the high price they pay for their medicine is worth the innovation that may save their lives or those of their loved ones.

Drug and product pipeline

* Aptose Biosciences Inc. decided to temporarily delay all clinical activities pertaining to its product candidate APTO-253 in order to prioritize its resources to develop CG'806. APTO-253 is a phase 1 stage compound for acute myeloid leukemia, and CG'806 is a preclinical-stage compound being developed for FLT3-driven acute myeloid leukemia and certain BTK-driven B-cell malignancies.

* Ocular Therapeutix Inc. resubmitted a new drug application to the U.S. FDA seeking approval of Dextenza for the treatment of ocular pain after ophthalmic surgery. The agency declined to approve the drug in July 2016 due to deficiencies in the manufacturing process and controls.

* Lupin Ltd. launched a generic version of Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s female contraceptive tablet Ortho-Cyclen. Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a Johnson & Johnson unit.

* The U.S. FDA authorized NantKwest Inc.'s investigational new drug application to study a cell-based therapy that would treat cancer.

* The FDA also accepted Genentech's supplemental biologics license application for Actemra to treat giant cell arteritis, a chronic, potentially life-threatening autoimmune condition. Genentech is a Roche Holding Ltd. unit.

Operational activity

* The Federal Trade Commission refiled a complaint and filed a proposed stipulated order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to resolve charges that Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Endo International PLC broke antitrust laws by using pay-for-delay settlements to block access to generic versions of Lidoderm and Opana ER and preserve monopoly profits.

* Additionally, the FTC refiled charges against Watson Laboratories Inc. and its former parent, Allergan PLC, for illegally blocking a lower-cost generic version of Lidoderm when it entered into a pay-for-delay agreement with Endo. The agency further filed an administrative complaint against Impax Laboratories Inc. for being involved in similar conduct regarding Opana ER.

* Japan's Intellectual Property High Court rejected Debiopharm International SA's patent infringement claim against Towa Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. that involved the Elplat anticancer agent, Pharma Japan reported.

* Merck KGaA entered into a collaboration and licensing agreement with France-based Domain Therapeutics to explore the potential of adenosine inhibition in the development of novel immuno-oncology agents that fight cancer.

M&A and capital markets

* Incyte Corp. made an $80 million investment in Merus NV as part of a broader deal to gain access to up to 11 bispecific antibody research programs, including two of Merus' current preclinical immuno-oncology discovery programs.

* CareDx Inc. unit CareDx Pty Ltd. is buying Conexio Genomics Pty Ltd.'s business related to the manufacturing and selling of sequencing-based human leukocyte antigen typing products. Conexio Genomics is an Illumina Inc. affiliate.

* ADMA Biologics Inc. is acquiring certain manufacturing and therapy-related assets from Biotest Pharmaceuticals Corp., a Biotest AG subsidiary. The assets include property, facilities, laboratories, equipment and certain employees of Biotest Pharmaceuticals' locations in Boca Raton, Fla.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 0.22% to 22,949.86, while the Nikkei 225 fell 0.55% to 18,787.99.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 gained 0.10% to 7,158.41, and the Euronext 100 climbed 0.07% to 930.81.

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