Shares of SkyePharma (Nasdaq: SKYE ) were up by more than 12% yesterday on rumors, reported in The Wall Street Journal, that a number of big pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN ) , Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) , and Income Investor pick Merck (NYSE: MRK ) , are all thinking about purchasing the London-based drug maker.
This development is significant for two reasons. First, the suitors' takeover bids are likely to come at a premium to its current price, even after today's notable increase. As such, I think SkyePharma represents an excellent short-term buying opportunity.
The second reason the news is important is that SkyePharma could very well turn out to be an outstanding long-term investment for whoever purchases it.
SkyePharma is currently developing a variety of respiratory drugs, including an asthma medication -- dubbed Flutiform -- that is nearing the final phases of testing. If approved, Flutiform could have considerable value in its own right, considering that asthma treatment is such a large market.
It is, however, SkyePharma's drug-delivery technology that really makes it valuable, in my view. SkyePharma specializes in manufacturing nanoparticles to very narrow size distributions. This unique skill is important because, by tailoring nanoparticles to the right size, SkyePharma can better deliver drugs to targeted areas -- even hard-to-reach areas like the lungs, which is where Flutiform would be directed.
SkyePharma has also created a proprietary nanoparticulate solubilization technology that may be useful in overcoming solubilization issues -- a problem that has been estimated to play a role in nearly 40% of all early-stage drug failures. Moreover, the technology may also be helpful in reformulating some patented drugs. By removing the need to use chemical additives to help solublize the drug, the reformulated drug may have fewer side effects than the original drug. If you've ever cringed at those disclaimers that drug manufacturers are required to tack on to their commercials (e.g., "this drug may result in significant hair loss, vomiting, diarrhea ... "), you can understand how valuable this technology may be.
The bottom line is that SkyePharma's technology (and intellectual property) not only has the ability to create more and better new drugs, but it can also reformulate old ones. This combination of adding new products to a company's existing pipeline, along with the ability to extend the patent life of already approved drugs, makes SkyePharma an attractive target for any number of companies.
It's this fact that convinces me that SkyePharma's recent run up to $9 per share still has some legs. I don't know what the premium will be exactly, but I'd bet that executives at the aforementioned companies, as well as those at Endo Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ENDP ) and Income Investor pick GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK ) , are all likely sharpening their pencils and trying to determine just how much they'd be willing to pay for SkyePharma.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich has been accused by teachers and friends alike of thinking small since grade school. He is the author of The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business and the forthcoming book Investing in Nanotechnology: Think Small, Win Big. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He owns shares of SkyePharma and Elan. The Fool has a disclosure policy.