Medivation up again as Merck now named as latest Big Pharma suitor

It’s getting to the point where it may be easier to list those not rumored to be interested in buying cancer biotech Medivation ($MDVN), as now, according to Reuters, Merck ($MRK) has joined the race.

This is according to people “familiar with the matter” talking once again to the newswire service, and comes after the U.S. giant gained a major boost in its attempt to dominate the non-small cell lung cancer I/O market after rival Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) this month flubbed a key Phase III test.

Merck can now be added to the ever-growing list of suitors that includes Sanofi ($SNY)--which has publicly made its interest known--as well as Celgene ($CELG), Gilead ($GILD) and Pfizer ($PFE), who are not commenting on the rumors.

Sanofi has in fact already been knocked back twice by Medivation for its lowball offers. The French Big Pharma, in need of a reinvigorated oncology pipeline after backing away from the area in the past two years, has been allowed to look at Medivation’s books.

It had been going hostile, but recently dropped its bid to oust its board. Medivation has consistently sought a higher price with its CEO David Hung seemingly ready to play the long game to get the best possible price, and allow the suitors to fall over themselves to bring the largest wad of cash to the table.

Merck has a potential $5 billion at peak blockbuster on its hands in the form of PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab), but may also be seeking to shore up its own cancer pipeline with Medivation’s R&D offerings.

The Californian biotech co-markets the blockbuster prostate cancer med Xtandi with Japanese pharma Astellas, owning rights to the blockbuster sales in the U.S. from the drug, but also has a respected store of cancer candidates in its labs.

Key among these is the PARP inhibitor talazoparib, which has posted strong late-stage data over the past year and was recently boosted by impressive data coming out of biotech Tesaro ($TSRO) and its experimental PARP niraparib after its ovarian cancer patients lived longer.

Medivation contends that its PARP is more effective, and could be the market leader--something it is pushing hard given how this could help up its own sale price.

Medivation saw its shares up 1.5% after hours last night when Reuters broke the news, with a market cap of just over $11 billion.

- check out the Reuters story

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