Press review

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Integration of Monsanto will be challenging for Bayer

BERLIN, 8 June (APM) - The real work for Bayer begins now that it has closed its $63 billion deal to acquire U.S. group Monsanto and become the world leader in agrochemicals, reported Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Friday (p22), FAZ on Tuesday (p15 and 22), Handelsblatt on Tuesday (p1 and 4-5), Die Welt Sunday (p33) and SZ on Saturday (p23).
After FAZ announced on Sunday (p25) that the closing was anticipated for 7 June, Bayer confirmed the report on Monday and made the closing official on Thursday (APMHE 58426). It also announced a €6 billion capital increase, the papers reported.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann Baumann is a “cold-blooded strategist”, Handelsblatt says in a portrait of the manager published on Friday (p70). The mega-takeover was his idea and has been hard work for the last two years. Now he must turn the merger into a profitable machine and win over the public. Monsanto's name will disappear because of its bad reputation, it says.
The pharma's trademark - the Bayer Cross - which "stands for trust, competence and quality worldwide" will now include the newly acquired agricultural products, Baumann told Handelsblatt.
However, the gap in public perception between the two companies is wide and the dispute over their merger has been passionate, said SZ. U.S. lawsuits over Monsanto's herbicide glyphosate are still ongoing.

Strong growth for pharma market

In the next seven years to 2024, the pharma business is expected to grow annually by 6.4% to around $1.2 trillion, according to Evaluate Pharma, reports Handelsblatt on Friday (p19).
Cancer drugs will continue to be the most important growth driver, with sales doubling to $233 billion by 2024, it said. Experts also see above-average growth rates of 13% to 16% for drugs for autoimmune and skin diseases.
According to this study, Switzerland's Novartis will overtake current market leader Pfizer and become number one.

More European investment in German healthcare companies

According to a study from consulting firm Bain & Company, European investors invested three times as much ($12.8 billion) in the healthcare industry in 2017 as they did in 2016, with the majority going to German companies, SZ said on Saturday (p25).
Two 2017 deals made by private equity funds were among the largest ever in German healthcare: Bain and Cinven paid $4 billion for Stada (APMHE 54349) and Nordic Capital acquired nursing home operator Alloheim Senioren-Residenzen for $1.3 billion.

Aimovig is no miracle drug for migraine

Novartis and Amgen's migraine drug Aimovig (erenumab) will help some patients but cannot be seen as a miracle drug, FAZ reported on Sunday (p62).
New therapies for migraine are badly needed, as drugs currently on the market fail in 30% of patients. Aimovig, which is already approved in the U.S. and is expected to reach Europe by the end of 2018, is a new class of drug that blocks the activity of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and is considered easier to take since it is injected every four or 12 weeks.
However, the number of pain days is only slightly reduced compared to placebo, physicians told FAZ. As is the case with many other migraine drugs, Aimovig may only be effective in a small number of patients.
At an annual cost of €6,000 per year - the price asked for by Amgen and Novartis in the U.S. - the German health insurance will pay only for patients in whom all other treatments have failed, German specialist Christoph Diener told the paper.

Failures in Alzheimer research

Despite billions invested in research over more than 30 years, no efficient drug has yet been developed to fight Alzheimer's disease, reports Wirtschaftswoche on Friday (p67-69).
A majority of research projects are based on the hypothesis that amyloid plaques are causing dementia and have to be eliminated or their production blocked. Despite multiple failures on this research path, pharma companies are still exploring it. Wirtschaftswoche points out that biologist Christian Haass from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich has been working with several pharma companies without success but nevertheless still supports the ”amyloid hypothesis”.
According to researchers interviewed by Wirtschaftswoche, Alzheimer researchers have probably realised that the hypothesis is not convincing but there is “no other horse in the race to bet on".

IBM Watson's German partnerships in deadlock

Two German partnerships between IBM's Watson 'supercomputer' and the Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg (DKFZ), sealed in 2011, and the Rhön-Klinikum hospital chain agreed in 2016, are at a standstill, reported FAZ on Sunday (p27).
Only one project for the transmission of large amounts of data has materialised from the high-tech, cutting-edge medicine alliances and it never made it out of the pilot phase. Rhön-Klinikum told FAZ that applying Watson to digital record patient files was "not suitable for everyday hospital use".
Researchers' impression is that IBM saw the agreement primarily as a sales opportunity for its products, but it did not fit the medical need, the paper said.
According to oncologist Michael Hallek (Cologne University Hospital), Watson was designed on the basis of U.S. practices and needs additional content to be used in a European context.

German biotech prints cell clones for big pharma

German biotech Cytena, founded in 2014, works with six of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Novartis and Bayer, using its patented technology to produce single-cell clones, FAZ reported on Wednesday (p34).
The biotech, which is a spin-off of Freiburg's Albert-Ludwigs-University, uses printers to produce body cell clones and does important preliminary work for the development of new drugs, the paper said.

German biotech Lysando developing antibiotic alternative

German biotech Lysando, based in Bavaria, is developing special protein molecules called artilysins as a successor technology to antibiotics, SZ reported on Wednesday (p22).
German investor Markus Matuschka von Greiffenclau founded the company in 2009 and serves as its board chair, the paper said. The company has seen some initial success with its technology, but clinical studies have yet to begin.

Stada investigations nearly complete, criminal proceedings under way

An internal investigation by generics drugmaker Stada is nearly complete after the company turned its documents over to authorities in April, Die Welt (p10), Handelsblatt (p21) and FAZ (p25) reported on Thursday (APMHE 58406).
Preliminary criminal proceedings against two former board members, one of them former CEO Hartmut Retzlaff, for gifting a company car to a consultant, have begun and an investigation into potential violation of corporate law continues, Handelsblatt said. But the company itself has largely been cleared of wrongdoing, the papers said.

Cut in social contributions postponed to 2020

Health minister Jens Spahn has been forced to postpone a decrease in social contributions for insurees from January 2019 to January 2020, FAZ (p20) and Der Spiegel (p56) reported on Saturday.
Spahn had to compromise after criticisms from social democrats (SPD - the junior partner in the ruling coalition) - and from his own party, the Christian democrats (CDU).
The minister initially planned to introduce two reforms in January 2019: a reduction in the additional contributions charged by health insurers and a return to parity in the percentages paid by insurees and employers for coverage.
The return to parity will occur in January 2019, but the reduction of additional contributions will be implemented once the financial compensation between the 112 statutory health insurers - called the risk-adjustment scheme (RSA) - has been updated.
The change is bad news for employers, who were expecting to pay less in social contributions from 2019.
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