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Company news

March 31, 2014

FAST BioMedical has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a clinical trial of the diagnostic tool it is developing to measure plasma volume and kidney function in hospitalized patients. The grant, part of the federal Small Business Innovation Research program, adds to more than $16 million FAST has raised. The Indianapolis-based company said in January that it wants to raise as much as $25 million in the next two years to bring its product to market. “We believe that a quantitative measurement of a patient’s plasma and blood volume status and kidney function will have a demonstrable impact on outcomes in an area of medicine that has seen only modest advances in previous decades,” Dr. Bruce Molitoris, FAST’s medical director, said in a prepared statement. “Currently, physicians don’t have either a direct or timely way to assess these key parameters clinically.”

West Lafayette-based Endocyte Inc. could fetch a takeover bid at one of the industry’s highest premiums on record, according to Bloomberg News. Endocyte’s drug vintafolide has proved effective against both ovarian and lung cancers during clinical trials, raising the prospects for the company’s entire technology for developing targeted drugs for cancer and inflammatory diseases. Endocyte may command about $50 per share in a sale, up from its closing price of $21.96 on Friday, according to the average of four estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The estimates ranged from $35 per share to $65 per share. That would be the second-highest takeover premium on record among similar U.S. deals in the industry. According to a report by the Royal Bank of Canada, that could spark a takeover bid from Merck & Co. Inc., which has already paid for vintafolide’s late-stage development and will sell it as an ovarian cancer treatment in Europe. But Endocyte retains rights to the underlying technology and other drugs developed from it. AstraZeneca plc or Roche Holding AG also could be interested, according to a report from Cowen Group Inc. If vintafolide is approved for ovarian and lung cancer in the U.S. and Europe, it could bring in as much as $2 billion in revenue, according to Edward Tenthoff, a New York-based analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. Endocyte is now developing another cancer drug that targets cells in the same way as vintafolide, though with a potentially more potent chemotherapy drug. “If you have other ones that might be better, that might be problematic for Merck,” said Robert Hazlett, a pharmaceutical analyst at Roth Capital Partners LLC. “It may need to seriously consider Endocyte.”

Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences LLC is likely to become a stand-alone public company in the next three years, according to some Wall Street analysts—if in a year or two Dow Agro’s profits are on course to double from current levels. Of course, the parent company of Dow Agro, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co., could sell Indianapolis-based Dow Agro to another agricultural company, as it tried to do back in 2009. Analysts said Dow Chemical didn’t like the offers it received at the time, which was in the darkest days of the global recession. One reason for selling Dow Agro to another company is that its fast-growing seed business has yet to achieve the scale needed to support the massive R&D investments Dow has made in that area in recent years. Dow Agro’s $7 billion in annual revenue would rank it as the fifth-largest public company in Indiana, behind only WellPoint Inc., Eli Lilly and Co., Cummins Inc. and Steel Dynamics Inc. The company has annual cash flow of about $1 billion, and thinks a raft of new products can double those profits in five to seven years. Dow Agro employs about 1,800 people here, and its most recent hiring expansion touted annual wages from $65,000 to $95,000.

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