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In biopharmaceutical deal-making, 2020 was a busy year on both the M&A and partnering front. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic drove a significant amount of collaborations during the year, pushing infectious disease past cancer as the therapeutic area with the greatest deal volume. While infectious disease yielded 371 alliance deals during 2020, according to Biomedtracker, COVID-19 was the focus of 204 of those deals.

The industry recorded roughly 50% more biopharma M&A transactions during 2020 compared to the prior year, but those deals yielded much lower aggregate upfront value and an average deal value well below half the value of an M&A deal in 2019. These data reflect both that 2020 produced a rising number of “bolt-on” acquisitions priced below $1bn and that 2019 recorded a pair of mega-mergers – the $74bn acquisition of Celgene Corporation by Bristol Myers Squibb Company and the $63bn takeout of Allergan plc by AbbVie Inc. – that dwarfed the largest M&A of 2020, AstraZeneca PLC’s $39bn buyout of Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc.

While companies found ways to do deals throughout the pandemic, deals trended toward the smaller side. () Both during 2020 and looking ahead to 2021, company executives have talked about the need to keep business development going but with an eye toward bolt-on acquisitions that are easier to integrate.


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