With Merck ( MRK) gobbling up I denix Pharmaceuticals ( IDIX) for $3.9 billion Monday, the hepatitis C takeout speculation shifts to Achillion Pharmaceuticals ( ACHN).
Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) and Abbvie ( ABBV) were both reportedly interesting in buying Idenix but lost out to Merck, reports CNBC. Achillion shares are up almost 30% to $3.74 Monday as investors bet the losers in the Idenix sweepstakes may move on to the next target.
Using the Idenix premium, an acquisition of Achillion would be considerably cheaper -- less than $1 billion at Friday's closing stock price.
Like Idenix, Achillion has a pipeline of hepatitis C drugs. The most valuable, perhaps, is ACH-3422, a nucleotide NS5B polyermase inhibitor. The conventional thinking is that so-called "nucs" are the linchpin of hepatitis C combination therapy. Gilead Sciences' ( GILD) Sovaldi is a nuc and will likely generate $9-10 billion in sales this year. Idenix is developing a nuc, which is probably why Merck acquired the company.
Achillion's nuc is unpartnered, but for how long?