Over the last six months, biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (PFE) has acquired Array BioPharma Inc. and Therachon Holding AG and inked a deal to merge its off-patent branded and generic established medicines unit with Mylan NV (MYL).
The M&A streak, not a rarity for acquisitive Pfizer, has come under the watch of a new CEO, Albert Bourla, a company veteran who replaced long-time CEO Ian Read in January.
Another dealmaker that has helped oversee Pfizer’s M&A strategy is general counsel Doug Lankler.
Lankler, who is slated to take the stage in a keynote interview at The Deal Economy conference in New York on Nov. 20, is a 20-year veteran of the company and according to a 10-K filing, has served as general counsel since December 2013.
He joined New York-based Pfizer in 1999 and has held roles over the years including deputy general counsel and chief compliance and risk officer. Before joining Pfizer, Lankler was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. Earlier, he was an associate in the litigation department at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Lankler took the post of GC months after Pfizer had wrapped up the spinoff off its animal health unit, Zoetis Inc. (ZTS), and just before Pfizer in 2014 made a run at AstraZeneca plc, an effort that ultimately did not pan out.
Since taking the post, Lankler has seen Pfizer ink deals such as the purchase of Baxter International Inc.’s (BAX) portfolio of marketed vaccines for $635 million in 2014, atopic dermatitis drug developer Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $5.2 billion in 2016 and cancer drug developer Medivation Inc. for an enterprise value of about $14 billion in 2016. Other transactions include Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline plc’s deal, completed in August, to combine their consumer health businesses into a GSK-led joint venture.
In 2015, Pfizer and Botox maker Allergan plc (AGN) agreed to merge in a transaction valued at $160 billion, but the parties later scrapped the deal after a clampdown on inversions by the Treasury Department.
Pfizer’s deals this year include its acquisition of commercial-stage biopharmaceutical firm Array for a total enterprise value of about $11.4 billion and its purchase of clinical-stage biotechnology firm Therachon Holding AG for $340 million upfront plus up to an additional $470 million in potential milestone payments. Both transactions closed in July.
In July, Pfizer unveiled a deal to combine its off-patent branded and generic established medicines unit with Mylan, the drugmaker perhaps best known for allergy medication EpiPen. The Pfizer unit, called Upjohn Inc., includes brands such as cholesterol drug Lipitor, erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra and arthritis drug Celebrex. The new company that will be formed from the union will be 57% owned by Pfizer shareholders and 43% by Mylan shareholders.
The Federal Trade Commission in October issued a request for additional information from Pfizer and Mylan on the transaction. The companies continue to expect to close the deal in mid-2020, according to Bourla on the Oct. 29 earnings call.
“Following the expected close of the Upjohn-Mylan transaction next year, Pfizer will be a smaller science-based company with a singular focus on innovative biopharma,” Bourla later said on the call.
In March, Pfizer bought a 15% stake in gene therapy company Vivet Therapeutics and obtained an exclusive option to buy all outstanding shares. Pfizer paid about €45 million (about $50 million) upon signing and may pay up to €560 million inclusive of the option exercise payment and subject to clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones.
Going forward, it’s expected that Pfizer’s M&A appetite will continue, though bolt-ons are likely to remain a priority over large-cap M&A. Pfizer’s business development strategy will continue to involve bolt-on deals, said Bourla during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Oct. 29. Pfizer, he said, was not seeking a large M&A transaction at the moment.
–David Hatch, Ron Orol and Jonathan Braude contributed to this article