Looking Inside Those Billion-Dollar Biotech Deals
The big biotechnology investments that are reported in headlines sometimes are more about hype than actual dollars on the table. Meanwhile, examining where fault lies in a recent clinical trial that went awry.
Why Billion-Dollar Biotech Deals Are Often Just A Mirage
It was a good day for UniQure, a Dutch biotech company at work on gene therapies for rare diseases. A big pharma company had just made a billion-dollar investment in its future. Or so the headlines blared. Eighteen months and two CEOs later, UniQure is laying off about a quarter of its staff, abandoning some of its would-be drugs — and running out of cash. So what happened to that billion dollars? It never really existed. Bristol-Myers Squibb paid UniQure just $50 million in cash up front. The rest of the deal came in what’s known in the industry as “biobucks” — akin to lottery tickets that pay out when an experimental drug hits various milestones along the path to commercialization. When a drug fizzles, the money doesn’t materialize. (Garde, 11/28)
Is The FDA At Fault In The Deaths In Juno's Clinical Trial?
When three cancer patients died earlier this year while on an experimental therapy, the Food and Drug Administration promptly halted the clinical trial. A few days later, the hold was lifted — a turnaround so fast that it stunned the world of drug development. On Wednesday, the company behind the trial said two more patients were dead. “In light of what happened, I think the FDA really dropped the ball,” said Maxim Jacobs, a health care analyst at Edison Investment Research who researches oncology drugs. (Robbins, 11/23)