BIG PHARMA TARGETS RARE DISEASES

 byCaroline Baldwin.
 Published: 26/08/2016

After a relatively quiet summer, talks of anticipated acquisitions are here again. Unsurprisingly, given the number of pharma and biotech operations in Ireland, another company here has been implicated. Whilst it may not be the mega-merger which collapsed between Pfizer and Allergan, it’s relatively significant nonetheless. Biomarin, the Californian rare disease biotech with a market cap of circa $15bn has a significant manufacturing operation in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. Although Biomarin have typically been the instigators of acquisitions themselves over the last few years with the purchases of Zacharon and Prosensa respectively, for some time it has been rumoured that they themselves might be an acquisition target.

In recent weeks it has been announced that Pfizer look to be the fortunate winners of a bidding war for Medivation, a San Franciscan rare disease biotech valued at around $14bn. If that is the case, then unlucky runners up, Sanofi, who previously acquired Genzyme, may now look to Biomarin as an alternative. Biomarin represents a similar opportunity to that of Medivation, with a focus on unmet medical needs and what looks to be a very promising pipeline of products which have already been granted orphan drug status by the FDA. It will be interesting to see if Sanofi will look at this option and even more interesting to see what, if any impact this will have on Biomarin in Cork.

With talks of Brexit and unrest in the EU, the US driven Pharmaceutical industry drives forward with the thirst for pipeline development and high margin drugs. This may, on the face of it, look like a big corporate game but in reality, its fantastic news for those who suffer from rare diseases for which there are limited treatment options. More appetite for these high value products may drive up the cost of healthcare but can you place a value on the investments that big pharma is now willing to take into ensuring those unfortunate enough to have a rare disease now have hope? I think big pharma is betting you can’t.