Saturday Morning Back-Page Mysteries: European Animal Health Markets Edition

August 27, 2016 - Leave a Response

While we wait for signal acquisition, at JPL/NASA, confirming that lil’ Juno has survived its 100,000 mph dip, precariously near the polar vortex cloud-tops of Jupiter, I’ll post on one “curiosity.”

Back in 2010, and earlier, I posted these sorts of items more regularly, when the newly-combined Merck was in full-on trans-national transactional mode. Now that Kenilworth has settled largely into a “steady state” stable of businesses, I look at my automated page analytics/stats from StatCounter (in Europe, at least!) less frequently.

But this one jumped out at me this morning. A series of viewers — on the Pest side of the river, in what is now called Budapest, Hungary — have been busily translating my Intervet/Merial posts, images and pages from August of 2009, into Magyar — the entire month’s worth of my analyses of market share in those businesses — and my advice about, and instructions regarding contacting the EU Competition Commission about them. Fascinating [in part, because the chemists/scientists from way back in my mother’s family of origin hail from the Pest side of the river, as well].

It may well just turn out to be academics, doing research on market competition trends in the EU, in veterinary medicine — for some forthcoming paper. But it may also be someone looking at the animal health markets, with a transaction, or series of transactions, in mind — given the specific IP addresses involved. And the amount of market share data translated.

As I say — it is fascinating — in part because, despite my now distant biological roots, I cannot read Magyar. Smile.

So — just for grins, I’ll re-run the one that’s been most heavily and repeatedly translated of late — in English, right here (in the comments to the original post are the real clues, though — so do go read them in full, if you are thinking about sleuthing a transaction on this one):

DATELINE August 2009 — As a public service, I offer the following — if you need something to write the ECC and ask about, per my post of earlier this morning. . . .

This data is from the European Competition Commission filings made (large 208-page PDF file) when Schering-Plough acquired Organon, and its Intervet Animal Health lines of business (at Pages 88-93), in November of 2007:

. . . .Schering-Plough sells ectoparasiticides for farm animals under the brands Coopers Spot-On, Sputop, Versatrine, Ectoforce, Coopertix, Fly, Zoogama-D and Intervet under the main brand Butox and as well as under the brands Taktic and Topline Suspension. . . .

Based on data provided by the parties, the transaction gives rise to the following affected markets where Schering-Plough and Intervet would have a combined market share of at least 25% in the EEA at the national level (2006 data):

Competitors Denmark Greece Norway Sweden
Schering-Plough [5-10]% [10-20]% [40-50]% [60-70]%
Intervet [20-30]% [10-20]% [20-30]% [20-30]%
Combined [20-30]% [20-30]% [60-70]% [90-100]%

The merger would therefore lead to very high market shares of the new entity in Sweden ([90-100] %) and Norway ([60-70] %). In Sweden, the parties would face only one competitor — Bayer with marginal market share ([0-5] %) and in Norway only two competitors Janssen ([5-10] %) and Pfizer ([20-30] %). Given the barriers to entry, the parties will not face strong competitive constraints in these countries postmerger. . . .

With the objective of resolving the serious doubts identified by the Commission in the market for orally administered ectoparasiticides for farm animals in France and in Belgium/Luxembourg and in the market for endoparasiticides/endectocides for farm animals in Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom, Schering-Plough committed to the EEA-wide divesture to a suitable purchaser of endoparasiticides currently marketed under the brand Systamex and the ectoparasiticides for farm animals currently marketed under the brands Coopers Spot On, Versatrine, Sputop and Coopertix. . . .

[Editor’s Note: Does anyone know who bought these lines? Were any of them sold to Merial? That would be a very important development — given that “New Merck” proposes to transfer all of Intervet to the Merial/Sanofi entity, and still own half of it — if and when Sanofi-Aventis exercises its call option, should all of these transactions close.]

. . . .Following the market test, Schering-Plough added to the products to be transferred EEA-wide the Autoworm, which is the brand under which Organon BS product is registered and marketed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Schering-Plough also committed to fully transfer to the purchaser the brand Coopertix. The remedy also includes the grant of a licence for the use of the Coopers trademark for the sale of Coopers Spot On in the EEA by way of a royalty-free exclusive and irrevocable licence. . . .

I’ll be back soon, with more examples. [END, ORIGINAL 2009 MATERIAL.]

Now you know — rainy but sweetly warm here — still awaiting signal acquisition from Jupiter, and that lil’ “shepherd moon-let” I’ve grown so fond of. Smile.

नमस्ते

A Rather Promising Friday Afternoon Ebola Fight Update: Basic U Penn Research May Now Lead To Small Molecules — For Acute Treatment

August 26, 2016 - Leave a Response

Regular readers will recall that back in February, Gilead’s experimental biologic GS-5734 showed excellent effectiveness when deployed on an emergency basis — to likely save Scottish Nurse Pauline Cafferkey’s life. Even so, we plainly need to know whether that (or any other) approach will turn out to be safe enough, for general deployment — in a much broader human population. In the mean time, work continues on so-called small molecule approaches.

That is, traditional pharmaceutical approaches. This quiet Friday afternoon, we highlight one of the most promising: a compound that seems to pretty effectively prevent the virus’s “jail-break“, from a given infected cell. Ebola uses our own cells as its factory, to make copies of itself. The new small molecule approach apparently works by imposing a chemical “lock-down” right at the cellular wall. Clever. Very clever. These are “early days” in basic research, to be sure — but a nicely encouraging development (and one that might ultimately be shown to well-apply to other viral attackers — including Zika).

Here is the write up on the research in a pharma processing trade journal — and, if you are keenly interested, I’ve also linked the original research paper, in the article snippet, below:

. . . .Scientists may have found Ebola’s Achilles’ heel: a new kind of chemical compound can block the protein Ebola uses to break out of cells and infect new cells. The compounds, revealed in a new paper in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, could potentially be used to treat the disease after infection. . . .

Viruses replicate by hijacking the machinery in the cells of their host — in the case of Ebola, human cells — and co-opting the cells to help produce more viruses. Once production is complete, particular virus proteins promote release of viruses from the cell surface, which can go on to infect more cells.

The new compounds target an interaction between the virus and the host cell, inhibiting new Ebola viruses from escaping cells once they have been assembled. The team’s results show that the compounds block this interaction without being toxic to the [mammalian line] cells. . . .

Now that is promising news. Of course, showing it works in mammalian line cells is not the same as showing it works safely inside a living breathing human being. So we may be several years from an actual treatment for acute Ebola. This is of course — as ever — how pharmaceutical science progresses: in incremental steps. Like relationships; like life itself. Smile. Now you know — with tunes for the train home.

नमस्ते

O/T Space Science: NASA’s Juno To Dive Just Above Jovian Polar Cloudtops Saturday Morning…

August 25, 2016 - Leave a Response

This too (just like the July 4 orbital insertion) may be a white-knuckle ride — as this first closest range dip will splatter the Juno craft with radioactive particles moving at near light speed — and likely at least a few microscopic sized “mini-projectiles”, traveling at perhaps a tenth of light speed. At those speeds, and at the right angle of attack, a particle could penetrate the titanium strong box and wreak havoc with the electronics. Not likely, but possible.

So, we will hold a good thought, along with the hot coffee in our coffee mugs, bright and early Saturday. Grin. About this time next week, we should see the first high res images — of the raging storms — at Jupiter’s polar vortex. Whoosh. Here is the NASA mission page update:

. . . .This Saturday at 5:51 a.m. PDT, (8:51 a.m. EDT, 12:51 UTC) NASA’s Juno spacecraft will get closer to the cloud tops of Jupiter than at any other time during its prime mission. At the moment of closest approach, Juno will be about 2,500 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter’s swirling clouds and traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter scheduled during its prime mission (scheduled to end in February of 2018). The Aug. 27 flyby will be the first time Juno will have its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zooms past.


“This is the first time we will be close to Jupiter since we entered orbit on July 4,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Back then we turned all our instruments off to focus on the rocket burn to get Juno into orbit around Jupiter. Since then, we have checked Juno from stem to stern and back again. We still have more testing to do, but we are confident that everything is working great, so for this upcoming flyby Juno’s eyes and ears, our science instruments, will all be open. . . .”

Onward then — listening to Live — “Dolphin’s Cry” — on a walk home; then get a couple of good nights’ sleep, and rise early Saturday — for some biking, before fly-bys. Smile. Be excellent to one another.

Nämasté

A Slow News Week At Merck — Smallish Collaboration With BioThera Announced…

August 25, 2016 - Leave a Response

So the dog days of summer are upon us (as all my recent off-topic postings might suggest) — and it is a slow news week nearly everywhere in the land of bioscience. I too am easy, breezy and in need of nothing new, truth be told. [Nope, I cannot stomach the notion of posting about Martin Shkreli appearing on cable news TV, to defend Epi-Pen price gouging. No feeding the trolls!]

But in keeping with our past practice, here is one smallish Phase II (hoping to make it to Phase III) clinical trial agreement. Do go read it all, as it does involve Merck’s single best flagship product:

. . . .Under this new collaboration, a Phase 2 clinical trial is anticipated to enroll up to 95 patients who have either advanced melanoma no longer responding to initial treatment with a checkpoint inhibitor therapy or TNBC whose disease has progressed following treatment with one or more lines of therapy for metastatic disease. Biothera will be the sponsor of the study, which is planned to begin in the fourth quarter of 2016. Merck will provide clinical supplies of Keytruda for the planned studies. Other terms of the collaboration were not disclosed. . . .

Yes — a slow news week, indeed. But as you might glean, I do spend these slower moments reading science, and connecting it to the sorts of poetry long-forgotten by most. And in mind of that, just three years ago this week, Seamus Haney (that Nobel winner, and grand black Irishman!) left our company. I’ll close here — with a short bit one of my favorites of his, then:

…And after the commanded journey, what?

Nothing magnificent, nothing unknown.

A gazing out from far away, alone.

And it is not particular at all,

Just old truth dawning: there is no next-time-round….

Travel well; and do travel light, my friends.

Nämasté

Yet Another “Shepherded” Exo-Planet? We Find Proxima b Far More Alluring Than Our Blue Dot…

August 25, 2016 - Leave a Response

Ah — “To burn at a distance, or to freeze nearby. . .” the old poem recites, but in fact, in the hunt for more worlds like ours, the opposite is true.

We are looking for ones that are neither — neither burning, nor freezing. No, just right. The news of Proxima b is well covered in the video at bottom (and sketched in, to the left of what we Americans call the Southern Cross, in the night sky — inside the tiny box). Do go watch the video for more. And now permit me a late night tangent: 

For my part, this late evening (and countless ones before it) — I find I prefer the unwasted grace of. . . mystery. Mystery of irises flashing golden flecks at the edges, and dark sienna in the middle — to the science of blue-eyed Earth-certainty. We are finding that these blue worlds are as common as common might be. 

And so in contrast, I will stand with Sweet Will [modified ever so slightly below], and declare that the rarer and darker one — is most oft’ the finer one, thus: 

Shakespeare | Sonnet CXXX

My lady’s eyes are nothing like the sun

Coral is no more pink than her lips’ pink

If snow be white, then her skin cinnamon

If hairs be fine wires, resplendent filamented dark wires grow upon her head

And in no perfume is there more delight

Than in the far-away sighs that from my lady seep

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That no music hath a more pleasing sound

I grant I never saw a goddess go, yet

My lady, when she walks, scarcely treads on ground

So, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare. . . .

So it is, all in the eye of the beholder, to the edited Sweet Will. . . and to me, as well.

And the science of Proxima b? Right here (as advertised):

O/T — A Wide Smile: 25 Years Ago This Morning, A Preposterously Generous Open Invitation Was Offered…

August 23, 2016 - Leave a Response

On this day in 1991: August 23, 1991 — Internaut Day No. 1, Tim Berners-Lee, later Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee — first opened what he came to call the world wide web. . . to, well. . . the world

For free. What an audacious gift of benevolence that was.

He opened it to new users — all of us, that is. All that appears here, for good or ill, flows from that gift.

So, Happy 25th Anniversary, to you — oh venerable “www”! It is now hard to imagine (for most of us), how we ever got along without you. Here’s to hoping we will never have to.

And as peculiar as it may sound, many — if not most — of the people I have come to love dearly, are and remain deeply connected to me through (and at least in part, because of) this astonishing innovation.

Yet it is by voice and by sight and by deed that those bonds remain strong. So, I say thank you, Sir Berners-Lee!

Onward. Ever. . . onward.

Explaining The Price Ian C. Read Just Paid For Medivation…

August 22, 2016 - Leave a Response

Eye-watering. That’s how much cream — or premium — is in this price.

But as I said last night, Mr. Read simply had to play defense here. He could not let any of the other majors get these assets. Even if the Medivation pipeline doesn’t pan out — he had to keep the candidates out of the hands of the rivals Merck, BMS and Roche in particular. Why? On the chance that the Medivation pipeline does perform.

If these were to become next gen oncology blockbusters — in the others’ hands — Pfizer would be relegated to the back of the bus, for yet another decade — in oncology. So he is overpaying (in my opinion) — to play lock-out defense. Here’s Tracy Staton on it:

. . . .But at $14 billion, Pfizer is paying a huge premium. At $81.50 per share, the price beats analyst estimates of a “best-case” deal for Medivation. It’s a 30% premium to Friday’s closing price–and a stunning 180% more than Medivation’s stock price when the deal talk first emerged, as Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson pointed out in a Monday investor note. “This is a hefty bid,” Anderson said. . . .

The pharma world is a place where history doesn’t exactly repeat, but it sure does. . . rhyme. And the rest of the world is a surreal, strange, new and wonderfully familiar place this cloudless morning. . . smile.

UPDATED: Pfizer Has Offered A Whopping $14 Billion — For Medivation

August 21, 2016 - Leave a Response

In candor, I generally think Mr. Read tends to overpay for his assets. [Full rewrite and update here.]

And this rumored news has all the earmarks of being another one of those kinds of deals. Financial Times is reporting a rumor tonight — that Pfizer may announce a $14 billion buyout of Medivation — as early as tomorrow morning.

Last week, I had guessed it would go for between $12 billion and $13 billion, so this is premium pricing again, if the report is accurate.

I suppose one way to think about the high price here is to recognize that Mr. Read cannot afford to spend another decade bringing up the rear, in next gen oncology. That is, he cannot allow any of these other suitors to lock him out of Medivation’s pipeline — and put Pfizer in fourth place (or worse) in oncology for another decade. So, he has to bid over 15 times sales revenue for the asset. Yikes. Here’s a bit, from FiercePharma, and the very capable Tracy Staton:

. . . .The Medivation hunt may be all but over. Pfizer is close to striking an agreement to buy the California-based biotech in a deal worth about $14 billion, the Financial Times reports.

If Pfizer and Medivation do finalize a deal, it would wrap up a months-long buyout race that pulled in much of Big Pharma and Big Biotech along the way. With its blockbuster oncology med Xtandi ready to add to a buyer’s sales, plus a much-anticipated late-stage cancer candidate and a pipeline of other prospects, Medivation has been a sought-after prize in an otherwise slow summer for biopharma M&A. . . .

This would mean that Merck has been outbid. And that may turn out to be the very good news. Time will tell. . . now sleep well, all you samba dancers, fondly leaving Rio behind. . . smile. Pssst! A fun one is due up early tomorrow!

Local Planetary Science: Where You’ll Want To Be — Exactly One Year From Today, Starting At 11:15 AM CDT…

August 21, 2016 - Leave a Response

For a planetary event that happens only every 250 years or so, it is probably worth taking the day off, and getting on a plane to go see it. At least I think so.

Not since almost a decade before our founders met in Philadelphia, and signed our Declaration, has there been a full solar eclipse centered over North America. It will occur on the morning of August 21, 2017. And the sweetest spot (where the locally-observed solar altitude, relative to the nominal horizon, the full penumbral flaring and high-likelihood of clear skies — all converge) will be very near Nashville — just a little north, and east of it, actually.

It is hard to overstate how powerful a sign this sort of a celestial event (last time around) might have been — in the collective consciousness of the indigenous peoples of North America — then living on these upper Midwest plains. [But in a bit of reverently-intended historical license, I have at right imaged Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotȟake, whom we refer to as Sitting Bull, the Lakota chief — circa a century later.] So it is with some considered humility, and at least some silence, that we probably ought to observe this one, this time around.

[I’ve included the ghostly figure of Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotȟake, to remind us that dozens of these events occurred — on the same spot, over many millennia — while we “Americans” were not yet present. And I also mark it to take USA Today to task (gently) — for edit copy that appears blissfully unconscious of the history of our lands, prior to the arrival of. . . those white men.] In any event, we shall see — if USA Today revises its copy, eventually:

. . . .The biggest and best solar eclipse in [Post Colonial: my edit] American history arrives a year from today, and plans for celebrations, parties and festivities are already well underway.

Organizers of the Oregon SolarFest are calling it “a rare, mind-blowing cosmic experience,” while Nashville promises visitors “a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event.”

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast, according to NASA. It will be the first total eclipse visible only in the USA since the country was founded in 1776. . . .

Check back here — just one year from now — for more (that will be a Monday). It ought to be well worth the trip. Ear to ear grins, as I walk in. . . .

O/T: This Is A Great American Story: Flint, Michigan’s Claressa Shields Achieves A Dream

August 21, 2016 - Leave a Response

I’ll mostly just point you the Detroit Free Press article I’ve quoted, below. [This concludes our weekend of “girl power” stories.]

But before I so conclude, I will also link you to the excellent long form documentary (on PBS’s “Independent Lens“) that covers the tough time she’s had — leading up to, and after winning gold last time around — in London, in 2012. Do watch it — very well made. And for now, there is this very bright resolution — to that earlier drama. Hopefully, this time ’round, the folks in Colorado Springs, at the USOC, will get her connected to marketing agents of note. That smile belongs on a Wheaties box.

. . . .Flint’s Claressa Shields made history this afternoon, becoming the first U.S. boxer to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, defeating the Netherland’s Nouchka Fontijn in the women’s middleweight. . . .

This is gold medal story of survival, escaping from poverty and a difficult childhood, bouncing between 11 homes by the time she was 12, turning all of that pain into a champion boxer.

It is a story of growth and maturity.

After winning the gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Shields did not get the money or fame or endorsements that she expected. She was perceived to be strong, tough and fierce but didn’t have a marketing team behind her. After winning the gold medal, life didn’t get easier. When everybody thought Shields had become rich, there she was, going to a collection agency to pay her mother’s past-due water bill. . . .

With this win, Shields becomes the most successful U.S. Olympic boxer in history – the only one to win two gold medals. . . .

That is quite grin-worthy, indeed. Off now, to the train stations. . . keep it spinnin’ in good karma, one and all.

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