Kevin Conroy (Exact Sciences)

A month af­ter Il­lu­mi­na's big Grail buy­out, Ex­act Sci­ences scoops up liq­uid biop­sy ri­val Thrive for a rel­a­tive bar­gain

Il­lu­mi­na is go­ing to have a lot of work to do to prove Grail was worth those $8 bil­lion.

To­day, Ex­act Sci­ences an­nounced that it will ac­quire Thrive, Grail’s chief ri­val among the ear­ly can­cer de­tec­tion star­tups, for a size­able but rel­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate $2.15 bil­lion. The yawn­ing gap in part re­flects the vast dif­fer­ences in cap­i­tal that have been in­vest­ed to date in each com­pa­ny.  But both have gone toe-to-toe over the last year and a half, with Grail hav­ing pub­lished da­ta in over 50 can­cers but Thrive re­cent­ly beat­ing them to a key test for liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­nies.

In­vestors greet­ed the Thrive buy­out with more en­thu­si­asm than they did the Grail buy­out. While Il­lu­mi­na lost $8 bil­lion in mar­ket cap af­ter news of a like­ly Grail buy­out broke, Ex­act shares have surged 18% — $19 — this morn­ing.

The two liq­uid biop­sy com­pa­nies have now sold for a com­bined $10 bil­lion in a lit­tle over a month. The col­lec­tive bet re­flects a deep faith in cor­ners of the di­ag­nos­tic and se­quenc­ing worlds in the pow­er of a tech­nol­o­gy now years in the mak­ing.

The field has moved for­ward sub­stan­tial­ly since both com­pa­nies launched. In April, Thrive pub­lished re­sults in Sci­ence that showed for the first time that a blood test could help doc­tors de­tect and treat mul­ti­ple types of can­cer in oth­er­wise healthy peo­ple, hit­ting a long-await­ed mile­stone for a sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing field, where the most vo­cif­er­ous back­ers think it can even­tu­al­ly save lives and re­make on­col­o­gy.

Still, al­though they’ve been dis­cussed in the same breath for years, both Grail and Thrive have tried to down­play the ri­val­ry. Both have point­ed out that they will need to se­cure in­sur­ance cov­er­age and re­im­burse­ment for a field that does not yet ex­ist. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple tests on the mar­ket could aid in that fight. If one test fails, it could sig­nif­i­cant­ly ham­per the ef­fort.

Ex­act Sci­ences makes for a more like­ly buy­er than Il­lu­mi­na. The di­ag­nos­tic com­pa­ny is best known for Co­lo­guard, their stool-based test for col­orec­tal can­cer, and they’ve been ag­gres­sive over the last year, ac­quir­ing Ge­nom­ic Health for $2.6 bil­lion and sign­ing ad­vanced mar­ket­ing agree­ments with Pfiz­er. The com­pa­ny en­vi­sions Thrive’s even­tu­al mar­ket as worth over $25 bil­lion.

“The ac­qui­si­tion of Thrive is a gi­ant leap to­ward en­sur­ing blood-based, mul­ti-can­cer screen­ing be­comes a re­al­i­ty and even­tu­al­ly, the stan­dard of care,” CEO Kevin Con­roy said in a state­ment. “We couldn’t be more ex­cit­ed that Ex­act Sci­ences will be at the fore­front of this in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­ni­ty to serve pa­tients.”

The deal is worth $1.7 bil­lion in up­front, paid in 65% Ex­act stock and 35% cash. An­oth­er $415 mil­lion is avail­able through in­cen­tives.

Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, 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.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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Thank you, next: Take­da hands Ovid $196M cash to rein back in Phase III-ready seizure drug, re­viv­ing bat­tered stock

Soticlestat made it.

Takeda is bringing the drug back into its fold more than four years after first entrusting the team at Ovid with the mid-stage clinical work. For all that — generating what they saw as positive Phase II data in Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome — the biotech has been rewarded with $196 million in upfront cash, with another $660 million reserved for regulatory and commercial milestones.

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