(Bloomberg) — An overlooked drug bought by a biotech company for a mere $6.6 million a decade ago could become one of the biggest selling cancer treatments ever.

Those high expectations have its maker, Pharmacyclics Inc., considering selling itself in a deal that could be worth as much as $18 billion.

The Sunnyvale, California-based company has attracted interest from companies including Johnson & Johnson and Novartis AG, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. Cancer is one of the most lucrative areas of drug development, and Imbruvica is an easy-to-use pill that costs around $100,000 a year, avoids certain serious side effects of chemotherapy, and patients can stay on it for long periods of time.

The drug has also made a billionaire of Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Duggan. Duggan owns 13.5 million shares, or 18 percent, of Pharmacyclics. The stock constitutes the bulk of his $3.2 billion net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He amassed most of the shares at a cost of $42 million between 2004 and 2011, when he used his holdings to take a board seat and eventually control of the company.


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