Sunday, July 20, 2008
Speaking of the Devil: Genentech Receives Full Takeover Offer from Roche; Stands to Become Alnylam’s Partner
From the press release and based on historical comments against the notion of mega-mergers with fellow Big Pharma and against entering generics, it is clear that Roche is very keen on leading the development of innovative medicines, particularly personalized medicine. What better candidate than Genentech with all its know-how in this arena as well as size to sufficiently impact Roche's top and bottom lines? Just to demonstrate that personalized medicine is more and more becoming a reality, Roche appropriately also announced today European approval for an interferon-ribavirin treatment regimen for hepatitis C based on individual viral titers and rapid viral response. Interestingly, Alnylam disclosed really for the first time in the Pharmaceutical Executive report its interest in hepatitis C which might be best addressed by SNALP delivery. And how much more personalized can hepatitis C treatment get than to sequence the virus in a given patient and then deliver the appropriate siRNA combination?
Reassuringly, the press release prominently mentions RNAi Therapeutics as a central component of the innovation engine of the combined company:
“The structure of the combined company will allow for a diversity of approaches in research and early development, while also strengthening cross fertilization between the companies, leading to enhanced overall innovation within the Group. Roche's recently adopted Disease Biology Area approach, which allows five diverse groups to manage their innovative portfolios, will be maintained and strengthened. This, together with recent moves into RNAi (Ribonucleic Acid interference) and delivery technologies, as well as licensing activities, continues to provide a stimulating
environment for the creation of medically differentiated medicines.”
And on the “enhanced ability to innovate”, the press release goes:
“The transaction will over time significantly enhance cooperation and cross fertilization among all research hubs inside and outside of the combined company. Sharing of technologies (e.g. RNAi, novel protein architectures), assets (e.g. chemical libraries), intellectual property(e.g. antibody production), unique capabilities (e.g. exploratory development, modeling and simulation) and know-how of the combined research organization will strengthen the Group's ability to innovate.”
I wonder how much Genentech will be surprised by the offer. In this regard, it is also interesting to speculate whether Alnylam had been in negotiations with Genentech or not. If so, would an unsolicited takeover of Genentech by Roche mean that Alnylam has to forego platform license fees that it would have otherwise received if Genentech remained independent? On the other hand, could it be that Genentech’s moves into RNAi Therapeutics had long been co-ordinated with Roche’s efforts, relying on being able to access RNAi know-how and IP through Roche? I guess the answer will come whether the $89 a share offer will be recommended by Genentech management to shareholders or not. Given the close ties between the companies a Ventana-like takeover battle is difficult to imagine. The weak dollar may also aid Roche in increasing the price a little bit to satisfy all Genentech shareholders.
Today’s development promises to be a defining moment in the history of drug development. With the recent acquisitions of diagnostics company Ventana and now Genentech, Roche has now fully committed to embracing the future of personalized medicine. Based on comments by the new CEO Severin Schwan who has now more than amply demonstrated that he really means what he says, RNAi Therapeutics is to play a key part in this.
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