M&A Waves Pushing Biotech ETFs Higher

The biotech corner of the broad healthcare sector is in the spotlight to start the New Year, as the new tax legislation has enticed U.S. companies to bring offshore cash back home, sparking waves of mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the slower growth in mature drugs has compelled prominent biotechs to acquire smaller ones with promising pipelines.

Deals on “Wheels”

Celgene Corp (CELG - Free Report) has been at the forefront to join the M&A craze. The company announced a deal to acquire blood-disease biotechnology company Impact Biomedicines for as much as $7 billion. The deal, expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, will add a new drug fedratinib, which is a highly selective JAK2 kinase inhibitor being evaluated across 18 clinical trials, including a Phase III trial, for myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera to Celegne’s pipeline.

Now, CELG is rumored to be in talks to acquire smaller rival Juno Therapeutics Inc. (JUNO - Free Report) in a quest to bolster its blood-cancer drug portfolio before its best-selling drug, Revlimid, loses patent protection. The acquisition could strengthen Celgene's drug pipeline for blood cancer, and potentially broaden its treatments to include lung, breast and ovarian cancers. Since both CELG and JUNO have long partnered on cancer treatments including the promising CAR-T drugs that teach the immune system to identify and fight cancer, the talks could lead to a deal in the coming weeks.

Among other deals, Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical has agreed to acquire Belgian biotech group TiGenix for 520 million euros ($628 million) aimed at strengthening the late-stage gastroenterology pipeline and presence in the U.S. specialty care market. Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk NOVO has also made a bid of €2.6 billion ($3.1 billion) to buy Belgian biotech Ablynx to beef up its waning performance in its haematology and hormone treatments division but the latter rejected the offer.

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