Company news

April 14, 2014

Assembly Pharmaceuticals, a company with roots in Bloomington and San Francisco, has attracted an undisclosed amount of investment from New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson Development Corp., Indianapolis-based Twilight Ventures, Zionsville-based Luson Bioventures, BioCrossroads Indiana Seed Fund II and private investors. Assembly is developing drugs that could cure chronic hepatitis B virus, or HBV, infection. Chronic HBV affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver failure and in some cases liver cancer. More than 600,000 deaths each year are attributable to HBV, which can be suppressed with lifelong therapy but which has no known cure. Assembly was formed in 2012 by Indiana University professor Adam Zlotnick and Dr. Uri Lopatin, who led HBV programs at Gilead Sciences and Roche Pharmaceuticals. Assembly has licensed intellectual property from the IU Research and Technology Corp. that was discovered in Zlotnick’s laboratory. Other co-founders of the company include IU chemistry professor Richard DiMarchi; Derek Small, president of Luson Bioventures; and William Turner, a former medicinal chemist at Lilly Research Laboratories.

Carmel-based nursing home developer Mainstreet Property Group LLC promised investors returns of 14 percent to 18 percent for investments in nursing homes it is now building around Indiana, according to a private document obtained by the Associated Press. Under its business model, Mainstreet arranges  financing for its facilities, then leases the completed buildings to a private operator. The buildings are then sold to HealthLease Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust controlled by Zeke Turner, who is also CEO of Mainstreet. According to the document, Mainstreet was looking to raise $60 million to build 12 new nursing homes at a cost of $199 million combined. In the case of three nursing homes it planned, Mainstreet expected to sell each for roughly $20 million, collecting between $3.3 million and $5.3 million on each sale, which would represent profits of 16.5 percent to 26.5 percent. The document does not include expected sale prices for the other nine facilities. Some previous facilities appeared to have generated even larger profits. In the case of Wellbrooke of Westfield, a new health care facility Mainstreet completed last year, investors put in $750,000 and made a $4.5 million profit, according to the Associated Press. For eight nursing home sales to HealthLease detailed in the Mainstreet document, Mainstreet investors made $34 million on an investment of $14 million, for a $20 million profit.

Indiana University's trustees have selected a downtown Evansville site for a nearly $70 million health education and research center planned by IU's medical school and three other schools. The board of trustees approved the location Friday following a recommendation by IU President Michael McRobbie. The University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College also plan to offer programs at the center that could draw some 2,000 health care students.

Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. has donated nearly $12.8 million to help defeat a ballot initiative that would give California regulators power to reject increases in health policy premiums, according to Bloomberg News, citing data provided by the California-based research organization MapLight. Premiums for family medical coverage in California have increased 185 percent since 2002, with average monthly premiums for single coverage at $572 in 2013, compared with $490 nationally, according to a report released in January by California HealthCare Foundation, an Oakland-based not-for-profit. The ballot initiative would require insurers to disclose publicly and justify proposed rate changes that affect individual and small employer customers. It would also give the state insurance commissioner authority to reject increases. About 35 states, including Indiana, have authority to approve or deny rate changes, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Eli Lilly and Co. saw little effect on its stock price after a jury in a federal court in Louisiana ordered Lilly to pay $3 billion in damages to patients who took the diabetes medicine Actos. That decision had no practical impact on Lilly because the maker of Actos, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., had agreed to indemnify Lilly against any legal damages. Lilly sold Actos for Takeda in the United States from 1999 until 2006. The jury ordered Actos to pay $6 billion in damages after finding that the drug companies hid the cancer risks of Actos. Takeda and Lilly said they would appeal the judgment. Even without a successful appeal, legal experts told Bloomberg News the $9 billion in damages is likely to be reduced because it is out of proportion to the documented damages in the case.

Ohio-based ViaQuest Inc. has acquired the Indiana operations of TriStar Home Health and Hospice, a division of Louisville-based Trilogy Health Services. The acquisition includes seven home health care branches in Evansville, Fowler, Huntingburg, Lafayette and Muncie, and two in Terre Haute. The locations operate under one of three brand names: Vibrant Home Health Care, Care One Homecare Services and Serenity Hospice. The locations employ a total of 180 people. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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