• U.S. company said to hire bankers after receiving interest
  • Drugmaker said to have no current plans to sell itself

Drugmaker Medivation Inc. is working with defense advisers after receiving preliminary interest from potential buyers, people familiar with the matter said.

The San Francisco-based company, which focuses on treatments for hard-to-cure cancers, doesn’t currently plan to sell itself, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. Medivation has a market value of about $6 billion.

French drugmaker Sanofi, which has said it’s looking for acquisitions to treat rare diseases, has Medivation on its list of potential targets, other people said. Bankers have been pitching the U.S. company to the French drugmaker, though it remains unclear whether Sanofi will pursue a deal, the people said. The company that made the approach for Medivation couldn’t be confirmed.

Medivation climbed 19 percent last week as StreetInsider reported Sanofi is interested in acquiring the company. The company’s shares rose as much as 17 percent in after hours Nasdaq trading following reports of the adviser appointment. Sanofi shares dropped less than 1 percent as at 10:07 a.m. in Paris.

Representatives for Medivation and Sanofi declined to comment.

Roche Holding AG, the world’s largest producer of cancer drugs, and AstraZeneca Plc are also expanding their portfolios. Like Medivation, the pharmaceutical companies are developing so-called immuno-oncology treatments that harness a patient’s immune system to target cancer cells.

Medivation is developing pidilizumab, an antibody that uses the immune system to attack tumors, a treatment for hematologic cancers such as multiple myeloma. The company also sells Xtandi for prostate cancer in collaboration with Astellas Pharma Inc. and is developing talazoparib to treat breast cancer.

Even with last week’s gain, Medivation shares have declined about 20 percent this year as U.S. lawmakers press the drug company to lower its prices. Still, revenue, which include collaborations, may rise 64 percent by 2017 as its Xtandi prostate cancer drug gains popularity, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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