M&As in biotech can help patients, says AskBio

While some US federal regulators believe the ongoing intensification of mergers and acquisitions in various sectors could jeopardize market competition, M&As can be beneficial when it comes to delivering biotech innovations to patients, said one BIO member company on Tuesday.

Sheila Mikhail, Co-Founder and CEO of gene therapy company AskBio, said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should not prevent larger pharmaceutical companies from acquiring smaller biotech firms. She spoke during the listening session organized by the FTC on Tuesday, aimed to collect comments on how to modernize standards to detect and prevent “anti-competitive deals” in a variety of industries.

AskBio is developing therapeutics for diseases including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and late-stage heart failure. The company was acquired by Bayer Pharmaceutical (also a BIO member) at the end of December 2020.

The FTC and Justice Department’s Antitrust Division launched a joint public inquiry in January “aimed at strengthening enforcement against illegal mergers,” as “many industries across the economy are becoming more concentrated and less competitive.”

“I care a lot about making sure that we have markets in which new businesses can enter and innovate and grow,” said Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter during Tuesday’s forum. “I care a lot about making sure that people have access to affordable, accessible food and drugs, without the scarcity and price gouging that can result from consolidation and efficiencies,” she said.

However, AskBio’s acquisition by Bayer resulted in numerous benefits for the company, including financial security, the combination of synergistic technologies, and the ability to leverage Bayer’s expertise in disease, clinical trials, and regulatory issues, Mikhail explained.

You can watch a recording of the forum here (with AskBio’s remarks starting around 38:00).

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