Bavarian Nordic quashes talk of interest in a Big Pharma buyout

Bavarian Nordic (CPH:BAVA) has downplayed its interest in becoming the latest European biotech to be scooped up by a deep-pocketed suitor. The vaccine player has regained some of its luster over the past year through deals with Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), but has no desire to cash in on its moment in the limelight.

Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin

Shares in Kvistgaard, Denmark-based Bavarian Nordic are trading up 192% since the start of October, at which time it was weeks away from striking an Ebola-focused deal with J&J. The J&J deal drove the stock up but the big jump came in March when Bristol-Myers signed up for a $975 million (€894 million) cancer pact. With European drugmakers proving to be an alluring prospect for U.S. biopharma companies and immunotherapy assets sitting at the top of many buyers' wish lists, talk has inevitably turned to a possible takeover of Bavarian Nordic. The firm is in no rush, though.

"You can't stop interest if there is interest, but it's not our ambition to sell the company," Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin told Reuters. "Our end goal is not to sell to Big Pharma as a success. If that [success] leads to a takeover, it leads to a takeover but that's not our goal." If Chaplin and his colleagues can realize their ambitions for Bavarian Nordic's pipeline, interest may arrive regardless of whether it is solicited. Bristol-Myers has its talons into Bavarian Nordic's most advanced asset--the prostate cancer vaccine Prostvac--but the Danish biotech is keeping a grip on its next contender. 

Having secured a €50 million loan from the European Investment Bank two weeks ago, Bavarian Nordic is ready to push CV-301 through Phase II trials unpartnered in an attempt to gather the data that will give it a big payday. "We would like to keep that asset free from strings, so that if we do demonstrate its efficacy in three [cancer] indications, we have the freedom to license to whomever we want," Chaplin said. A Phase II trial of the poxvirus-based immunotherapy in bladder cancer began last year, and another combining it with inhibitors is scheduled for 2016.

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