Allergan's double acquisition day last week reinforces what investors already know - NASH plays are hot and getting scooped up by big biopharma companies left and right. Many consider Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) the market leader in NASH, with Gilead Sciences (GILD), Genfit SA (GNFTF), Novartis (NVS), Shire Plc (SHPG), Bristol-Myers (BMY), Merck (MRK), and the aforementioned Allergan all making a strong push into the billion-dollar market. Gilead recently paid $400 million to acquire privately-held Nimbus Therapeutics and its Phase 1 asset, acetyl-CoA carboxylase. In January 2015, Gilead acquired an FXR agonist from privately-held Phenex Pharmaceuticals for $470 million.
The deal flurry in NASH last week caused several small-cap biopharma companies to increase in value as investors speculate on who will be acquired next. Galmed Pharmaceuticals (GLMD), Conatus Pharmaceuticals (CNAT), and Galectin Therapeutics (GALT) all soared on the news. Can-Fite Biopharma (CANF) also popped on the news. Can-Fite is a somewhat under-the-radar NASH play. I've written extensively on the name, but tend to focus most of my analysis on CF101, which is Phase 3 ready in both rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. For the purpose of this article, I'll look at CF102 for liver disease, including NASH, an opportunity that I do not believe the market is aware of and has the potential to send Can-Fite shares soaring in 2017.