Healthcare Sector Review: Merck 4Q Earnings, Savient Announces Interim CEO

Sangamo Biosciences, Inc. (NASDAQ:SGMO): Shire (NASDAQ:SHPGY) and Sangamo BioSciences (NASDAQ:SGMO) have entered into a collaboration and license agreement to develop therapeutics for hemophilia and other monogenic diseases based on Sangamo’s zinc finger DNA-binding protein technology. Shire will receive exclusive world-wide rights to ZFP Therapeutics designed to target four genes which will be used to investigate curative therapies for hemophilia A and B. Shire also receives the right to designate three additional gene targets. Sangamo is responsible for all activities through submission of Investigational New Drug Applications and European Clinical Trial Applications for each product and Shire will reimburse Sangamo for its internal and external research program-related costs. Shire is responsible for clinical development and commercialization of products arising from the alliance. Shire will pay Sangamo $13M upfront followed by research, regulatory, development and commercial milestone payments, and royalties on product sales.

The shares closed at $4.20, up $0.75, or 21.74%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $220.38 million.

Savient Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SVNT): Savient Pharmaceuticals announced that the company’s Board of Directors has appointed David Y. Norton, a member of the Savient Board and former company Group Chairman, Global Pharmaceuticals for Johnson & Johnson, to the role of Interim CEO, effective immediately. Norton succeeds John H. Johnson who has resigned as CEO, President and a director of Savient to become President, CEO and Chairman-Elect of Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ:DNDN). The Board will conduct a search process for a permanent CEO. The company also announced today that Louis Ferrari has been promoted to the position of EVP, President North American Commercial Operations. In his new role, Ferrari will continue to be a critical contributor to the company’s continued rollout of KRYSTEXXA. He will work directly with Norton and continue to be responsible for managing the efficiency and productivity of Savient’s commercial operations.

The shares closed at $2.26, down $0.27, or 10.67%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $161.53 million.

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) has voluntarily recalled 14 lots of Lo/Ovral-28 Tablets and 14 lots of Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol Tablets for customers in the U.S. market. An investigation by Pfizer found that some blister packs may contain an inexact count of inert or active ingredient tablets and that the tablets may be out of sequence. The cause was identified and corrected immediately. These packaging defects do not pose any immediate health risks. This recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The shares closed at $21.31, up $0.13, or 0.61%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $163.81 billion.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ): Makers of medical devices will double the fees they pay the FDA–to $595M–to get their products reviewed over the next five years in a deal designed to secure faster and more predictable evaluations, sources say, reports Bloomberg. The pact must be authorized by Congress.

The shares closed at $65.69, down $0.22, or 0.33%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $179.39 billion.

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK)┬áis expected to report Q4 earnings before the market open on Thursday, February 2 with a conference call scheduled for 8:00 am ET. Analysts are looking for EPS of 95c on revenue of $12.53B. The consensus range is 93c-97c for EPS, and $12.19B-$12.89B for revenue, according to First Call. After reporting better-than-expected EPS and revenue in Q3, the company gave a forecast of FY11 EPS $3.72-$3.76 vs. consensus $3.76 and saw FY11 revenue growth in the mid-single digit percentage range vs. consensus $48.23B. In the previous quarter, the company announced Singulair revenue $1.45B, Januvia revenue $864M, Animal Health revenue $826M, and Consumer Care revenue $421M. Investors will be looking for growth in these markets as well as updates on the company’s strategy to pursue new drugs and invest in research. They will also be looking to hear how American and European efforts to curb health spending is impacting Merck. In the past quarter, the company announced encouraging results for Victrelis, but negative results from its Tracer study. It did, however, receive FDA approval for its updated Vytorin label. Merck was initiated with a Buy at MKM Partners and at ISI Group, and was downgraded to Hold at Jeffries.

The shares closed at $38.63, up $0.36, or 0.94%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $117.74 billion.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Stella Mariz at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at