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Pharma on a Merger Mission

April was a month of merger missions, with 40 billion dollars’ worth of pharma deals being announced on just one day (April 28). Abbott agreed to purchase their competitor St. Jude Medical for $25 billion; AbbVie signed a $5.8-billion deal for cancer drug developer Stemcentrx; and Sanofi made an offer to buy the cancer drugmaker Medivation at $52.50 per share (valuing the company at around $9.3 billion).

Abbott and AbbVie’s deals seem to be going smoothly. Abbott and St. Jude are excited to be forming a “premier medical device leader” with a focus on atrial fibrillation, neuromodulation, and structural heart and heart failure (1), while Abbvie is looking to complement its oncology pipeline. Stemcentrx has five novel compounds in clinical trials, including Rova-T, a biomarker-specific antibody drug conjugate that has shown promise for small-cell lung cancer in clinical studies.

Sanofi, on the other hand, is having a tougher time – Medivation rejected the unsolicited offer, arguing that it substantially undervalued the company, so Sanofi has threatened to take the offer directly to Medivation shareholders. “As you know, your shareholders have the ability to act at any time by written consent to remove and replace the Board. If the Medivation Board of Directors continues to refuse to engage with us, then we intend to commence a process to remove and replace members of the Board,” a letter from Sanofi stated (2).

There are rumors abound as to what will happen next. According to Reuters, “people familiar with the situation” say that Medivation has opened its books to Pfizer and Amgen (3), and AstraZeneca and Novartis are also said to be interested in a bid and are reportedly talking to advisers about Medivation’s value and possible next steps (4). Could we be about to see a bidding war?
With the blockbuster prostate cancer drug Xtandi on the market (which Medivation sells in partnership with Japan’s Astellas) and the promising breast cancer drug talazoparib in late stage development, it’s easy to see why Medivation could be a popular target for big pharma companies. However, whether any more bids roll in – and what effect the rumors may have on Sanofi’s actions – remains to be seen.

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  1. Abbott, “Abbott to Acquire St. Jude Medical,” (April, 2016). Available at:
  2. Sanofi, “Sanofi Sends Letter to Medivation’s Board of Directors,” (May, 2016. Available at:
  3. Reuters, “Exclusive: Medivation Succumbs to Pressure to Explore Sale – Sources,” (April, 2016). Available at:
  4. Bloomberg, “AstraZeneca, Pfizer Said Among Firms Weighing Medivation Bid” (2016). Available at:
About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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