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Amgen’s Call Sparks Buyout Talk

Stock for a drug discovery company out of Plano, Texas soared following analyst talk that it might be the right fit for Thousand Oaks biotech giant Amgen Inc. Shares of Reata Pharmaceuticals jumped from $194.04 on Jan. 30 to $218.79 the following day, and continued to climb over the following week. As of Wednesday, Feb. 12, Reata shares closed at $226.63. Amgen, by contrast, dropped $10 from Jan. 30 to 31, only to bounce back 5 percent to $227.00 by Feb. 12. Joseph Schwartz, an analyst at SVB Leerink, made the connection in his Jan. 31 report on Reata, which specializes in drug development for kidney disease treatment or nephrology. “Amgen has established relationships with nephrologists given their product line-up, so a bolt-on acquisition focused on renal indications could benefit from such synergy in existing salesforce-nephrologist relationships,” Schwartz said in the report. “Irrespective of how Amgen may feel toward Reata, we continue to view Reata as a logical takeout candidate recently bolstered by positive (Phase 3) data in Alport syndrome and Friedreich’s ataxia – each of which could be game-changing for the acquirer.” Alport syndrome is a genetic defect that results in kidney failure, while Friedreich’s ataxia is a degenerative neuromuscular disorder, also inherited. Out of Amgen’s six commercial franchise areas, nephrology was the first, Chief Executive Robert Bradway reminded listeners during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call on Jan. 30. Although Amgen has been a leader in nephrology for several decades, the company reported sales of Epogen down 20 percent year-over-year. The drug treats anemia, a side effect in patients receiving dialysis for chronic kidney disease. “We have not found in our own discovery research efforts that we’ve been able to find the kinds of game-changing innovation that we want to invest in from a discovery standpoint,” Bradway said during the earnings call. “We’re not investing in discovery, research and nephrology right now. But we are going to look for business development opportunities there.” Amgen did not respond to requests by the Business Journal to expand on possible M&A efforts related to its nephrology field. The company reported a Non-GAAP net income of $2.2 billion ($3.64 a share) for the quarter and $9 billion ($14.82) for the full year during its earnings report.

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