2020 brought a huge boom in health­care in­vest­ment. How big? SVB an­a­lysts have the record-break­ing an­swer

As the past year de­vel­oped, it be­came clear­er that 2020 was prov­ing to be mas­sive for the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try. But just how big did the sec­tor boom?

The fi­nan­cial gu­rus over at Sil­i­con Val­ley Bank at­tempt­ed to an­swer that ques­tion Thurs­day, as their top health­care ad­vi­sors re­leased their 2020 An­nu­al Re­port. All in all, SVB has the to­tal amount raised pegged at a stag­ger­ing $16.8 bil­lion, far eclips­ing the fundrais­ing record set in 2019 and mark­ing the biggest year-over-year growth in al­most a decade.

Jonathan Nor­ris

It’s al­so the fourth straight record year in health­care VC fundrais­ing, SVB man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Jonathan Nor­ris wrote in the re­port.

So what caused the boom? There were mul­ti­ple fac­tors that con­tributed, but it wasn’t that wells of cash sud­den­ly sprung up every­where. In fact, the num­ber of funds ded­i­cat­ed sole­ly to life sci­ences re­mained ex­act­ly the same last year as it did in 2019.

Rather, the me­di­an deal size in 2020 — $415 mil­lion — was near­ly dou­ble that of the me­di­an $217 mil­lion a year ear­li­er. Add to that a bustling IPO mar­ket, with 2020’s record class of 84 ex­its end­ing up about twice as valu­able as 2019’s, as well as strong M&A ac­tion and the in­dus­try had it­self quite the lu­cra­tive year.

Though Nor­ris did not in­clude SPACs in his fundrais­ing fig­ures, he not­ed that there was a large up­swing in such merg­ers, with VCs and hedge funds putting to­geth­er about $2 bil­lion in deals.

The biggest growth oc­curred dur­ing the third quar­ter of 2020, with a whop­ping 482 deals tak­ing place across all health­care sec­tors. That’s the most deals by far in any quar­ter in the last three years, with on­ly 2020’s fourth quar­ter clock­ing in above 400 deals dur­ing that times­pan.

There were al­so sig­nif­i­cant in­creas­es not just in Se­ries A rounds, but fol­low-on rounds as well by com­pa­nies like­ly to file for an IPO. On­col­o­gy led the way in both ar­eas: the field pulled in $1.3 bil­lion in Se­ries A fund­ing, up from $959 mil­lion in 2019, and $7.6 bil­lion in lat­er rounds and health­care deals, up from $6 bil­lion the pri­or year.

Nor­ris ad­di­tion­al­ly dis­cussed SVB’s glob­al health­care in­dex to track the per­for­mance of post-IPO com­pa­nies com­pared to the broad­er mar­ket­place. Cre­at­ed in 2018, the in­dex record­ed an over­all growth of 71% among these com­pa­nies, vast­ly out­per­form­ing the Nas­daq health­care in­dex (+31%) and S&P 500 (+15%).

These now-pub­lic com­pa­nies al­so out­per­formed the big tech quin­tet of Face­book, Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, Google and Ama­zon, which com­bined for about 51% growth last year. Among the biggest win­ners this year were, un­sur­pris­ing­ly, firms work­ing on Covid-19 vac­cines: Mod­er­na, CanSi­no and BioN­Tech saw a col­lec­tive 508% in­crease.

Look­ing ahead to 2021, the folks at SVB don’t think the in­dus­try can quite keep up with the record-break­ing pace from 2020. But they still project a sol­id year like­ly to be in line with 2019’s $10.7 bil­lion fundrais­ing to­tal, with strong in­vest­ment pro­ject­ed to con­tin­ue both in Se­ries A and suc­ceed­ing rounds as well as a po­ten­tial 50 to 60 IPOs.

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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Lat­est news: It’s a no on uni­ver­sal boost­ers; Pa­tient death stuns gene ther­a­py field; In­side Tril­li­um’s $2.3B turn­around; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Next week is shaping up to be a busy one, as our editor-in-chief John Carroll and managing editor Kyle Blankenship lead back-to-back discussions with a great group of experts to discuss the weekend news and trends. John will be spending 30 minutes with Jake Van Naarden, the CEO of Lilly Oncology, and Kyle has a brilliant panel lined up: Harvard’s Cigall Kadoch, Susan Galbraith, the new head of cancer R&D at AstraZeneca, Roy Baynes at Merck, and James Christensen at Mirati. Don’t miss out on the action — sign up here.

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President Biden and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Chaot­ic ad­comm sees Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech boost­ers re­ject­ed for gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion, but rec­om­mend­ed for old­er and high-risk pop­u­la­tions

With just days before President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 booster rollout is set to go into effect, an FDA advisory committee appeared on the verge of not recommending boosters for anyone in the US before a last-minute change of wording laid the groundwork for older adults to have access to a third dose.

The FDA’s adcomm on Vaccines and Related Biological Products (VRBPAC) roundly rejected Pfizer/BioNTech booster shots for all individuals older than 16 by a 16-2 vote Friday afternoon. Soon after, however, the agency posed committee members a new question limiting booster use to the 65-and-older population and individuals at high risk of disease due to occupational exposure or comorbidities.

As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi Sanky­o's ADC En­her­tu blows away Roche's Kad­cy­la in sec­ond-line ad­vanced breast can­cer

AstraZeneca and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo think they’ve struck gold with their next-gen ADC drug Enhertu, which has shown some striking data in late-stage breast cancer trials and early solid tumor tests. Getting into earlier patients is now the goal, starting with Enhertu’s complete walkover of a Roche drug in second-line breast cancer revealed Saturday.

Enhertu cut the risk of disease progression or death by a whopping 72% (p=<0.0001) compared with Roche’s ADC Kadcyla in second-line unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients who had previously undergone treatment with a Herceptin-chemo combo, according to interim data from the Phase III DESTINY-Breast03 head-to-head study presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

Merck Research Laboratories CMO Roy Baynes

Mer­ck­'s Keytru­da un­corks full da­ta on lat­est ad­ju­vant win — this time in melanoma — adding bricks to ear­ly can­cer wall

In recent months, the battle for PD-(L)1 dominance has spilled over into early cancer with Merck’s Keytruda and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Opdivo all alone on the front lines. Keytruda now has another shell in its bandolier, and it could spell a quick approval.

Keytruda cut the risk of relapse or death by 35% over placebo (p=0.00658) in high-risk, stage 2 melanoma patients who had previously undergone surgery to remove their tumors, according to full data from the Phase III KEYNOTE-716 presented Saturday at #ESMO21.

Mer­ck flesh­es out Keytru­da win in first-line cer­vi­cal can­cer, adding more fire­pow­er to its ear­ly can­cer push

Merck has worked hard to bring its I/O blockbuster Keytruda into earlier and earlier lines of therapy, and now the wonder drug appears poised to make a quick entry into early advanced cervical cancer.

A combination of Keytruda and chemotherapy with or without Roche’s Avastin cut the risk of death by 33% over chemo with or without Avastin (p=<0.001) in first-line patients with persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer, according to full data from the Phase III KEYNOTE-826 study presented Saturday at #ESMO21.

Skin tu­mors in mice force Pro­tag­o­nist to halt lead pro­gram, crush­ing stock

Protagonist Therapeutics just can’t catch a break.

Six months after the Newark, CA-based biotech unveiled grand plans to launch its lead candidate for blood disorders into a Phase III trial, the FDA has slapped the program with a clinical hold. The halt — which applies to all trials involving the candidate, rusfertide — comes after skin tumors were discovered in mice treated with the drug, according to Protagonist.

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Chi­nese biotech Ever­est signs $550M+ li­cens­ing deal for BTK in­hibitors on heels of Covid-19 pact

Everest Medicines is on a roll with two licensing deals in one week.

The Shanghai-based biotech has paid Sinovent and SinoMab $12 million upfront for the rights to a BTK inhibitor for renal diseases, the company announced Thursday. The deal comes just days after Everest came away with rights to a Covid-19 vaccine in China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Everest will pay Sinovent and SinoMab up to $549 million in milestone payments and royalties. The agreement includes tech transfer of Sinovent and SinoMab’s manufacturing process for the candidate, named XNW1011.