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Genzyme And Isis Steal Show With Cholesterol Drug

CNBC.com

After the closing bell Monday, Genzyme and Isis Pharmaceuticals announced a blockbuster deal that set the overcrowded halls abuzz here at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

They're partnering on an Isis drug in late-stage development for cholesterol. It's a once-a-week injectable for people who don't get their cholesterol low enough taking a statin like Lipitor, Crestor or Zocor. And it's for patients who have a family history of high cholesterol.

What makes the deal such an attention-grabber are the dollars: $325 million up front, more than $1.5 billion in potential milestone payments and then a profit split if the drug wins FDA approval.

Isis Chairman & CEO Dr. Stanley Crooke told me 10 companies wanted the drug, but that the company chose GENZ even though it wasn't the highest and best. You can watch my interview with him on yesterday's "Closing Bell" in the video clip posted here.

Isis isn't presenting at the JPMorgan confab, but GENZ is this morning. In fact, Dr. Crooke says he doesn't care much for huge investment conferences like this one. He showed up at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco only to do the "First on CNBC" interview minutes after the news broke on the 4 p.m. hour of the "Closing Bell".

So, it turned out Biogen-Idec missing their slot in that show due to "plane issues" was a bit of a blessing in disguise. Sure, I still think there's good news value in an interview with BIIB CEO Jim Mullen in the wake of his company taking itself off the market. And I look forward to interviewing him about it. But their sudden cancellation gave us the available time to book Dr. Crooke instead with news of a deal that may easily trump anything else to come out of this year's JPM.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com