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Lilly among bidders for Denmark company, source says

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Eli Lilly and Co., Novo Nordisk A/S, and Novartis AG’S Sandoz are among bidders for Ascendis Pharma A/S of Denmark, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The Copenhagen-based health-care company received offers of about $400 million, said the person, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public. Ascendis may choose a final bidder by early September, the person said.

Ascendis has a technology that allows drugs to be released into the body in a controlled way over time, according to its website. The company focuses on hormone-related disorders and is developing a human growth hormone that can be taken once a week. It’s also developing new formulations of approved medicines and products for the central nervous system and infectious diseases, according to the website.

The Danish company is developing a weekly insulin shot. Novo Nordisk, also based in Copenhagen and the biggest maker of the hormone insulin, aims to introduce an insulin product in 2013 that’s taken three times weekly. Indianapolis-based Lilly has an insulin product in mid-stage trials that targets a once-daily dose for diabetes. Sandoz, the generic-drug unit of Switzerland’s Novartis, sells biosimilar medicines including a version of Pfizer Inc.’s growth hormone.

Ascendis spokeswoman Lotte Sønderbjerg declined to comment. Eric Althoff, a Novartis spokesman, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. A call to Mark Taylor, a Lilly spokesman, before U.S. business hours wasn’t immediately returned. Novo Nordisk had no comment, spokeswoman Katrine Sperling said.

Sanofi-Aventis SA this week said it dropped development of an experimental, long-acting insulin that wouldn’t require diabetics to receive daily injections. The Paris-based company is still seeking a successor to its existing Lantus insulin, a daily shot that generated$4.05 billion in revenue last year. Lantus is Sanofi’s best-selling medicine.

Sanofi, France’s biggest drugmaker, cut its 2010 earnings forecast this month after U.S. regulators approved a generic rival to its Lovenox blood thinner. The company is preparing a formal approach to acquire Genzyme Corp., the world’s largest maker of medicines for genetic diseases, which last week rebuffed an informal approach by Sanofi to enter talks, said people familiar with the situation.

Ascendis is owned by its management, Paris-based Sofinnova Partners, Gilde HealthCare Partners BV of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and TechnoStart of Germany.

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