Novartis quells speculation about selling Roche share; AstraZeneca picks up where J&J left off

A brief roundup of a big pharma, mostly Swiss and Nordic, as one week ends and another begins

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While there wasn't any earth-shattering news to close out the week on Jan. 25, four big names in pharmaceuticals did crop up, with speculation that Novartis might sell its one-third-control of Roche and news that a project abandoned by Johnson & Johnson is seeing renewed hope with an AstraZeneca deal.
The Novartis-Roche scuttlebutt revolved around widespread talk that Novartis was considering a big change in strategic direction that might include selling off it's one-third voting stake over at rival (but also Swiss) Roche. Joe Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, tried to put down that talk by noting that the stake in Roche remains a "strategic" purchase that previous CEO Daniel Vasella worked two years to secure.
According to Jimenez, while selling off that 33-percent stake isn't beyond the realm of possibility it would be unwise at current market prices, most likely, as it would "sub-optimize" the asset. Vasella had worked toward the voting stake at Roche as a long-term investment after an earlier plan to merge the two Swiss companies met resistance.

Not so far away, over in the Nordic world, there was AstraZeneca-related news as Uppsala, Sweden-based Orexo AB announced that it had entered into an agreementwith United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca regarding OX-CLI, a preclinical program for a potentialnovel treatment of respiratory diseases. Johnson & Johnson had previously been involved in the program but has since stepped away from its deal with Orexo.
Under this agreement, Orexogrants to AstraZeneca rights to conduct further preclinical research andevaluation of compounds in Orexo's OX-CLI program. AstraZeneca also hasan option to acquire the compounds pertaining to the program subject toa full asset transfer agreement being executed by the parties, underwhich Orexo will receive development milestones and royalties on futurerevenues.
"Our OX-CLI program is a promising R&D project, which has potentialto improve the treatment of respiratory diseases for millions ofpatients. AstraZeneca, a leading global company within the inflammatoryand respiratory area, is the optimal partner for OX-CLI and we lookforward to see the project advancing. " said Orexo CEO Anders Lundström.

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