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.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Fireside chat between Hal Barron and John Carroll, UKBIO19

It’s time we talked about bio­phar­ma — live in Lon­don next week

Zoom can only go so far. And I think at this stage, we’ve all tested the limits of staying in touch — virtually. So I’m particularly happy now that we’ve revved up the travel machine to point myself to London for the first time in several years.

Whatever events we have lined up, we’ve always built in plenty of opportunities for all of us to get together and talk. For London, live, I plan to be right out front, meeting with and chatting with the small crowd of biopharma people we are hosting on October 12 at Silicon Valley Bank’s London headquarters. And there’s a lengthy mixer at the end I’m most looking forward to, with several networking openings between sessions.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024, but the entire inventory will be available until depleted or expired, a company spokesperson said via email.

Tim Miller, Forge Biologics CEO

CNS-fo­cused gene ther­a­py biotech forges man­u­fac­tur­ing deal for hear­ing loss drug

A growing gene therapy company is teaming up with one of the largest gene therapy manufacturers to get its drug into patients in clinical trials.

Myrtelle announced on Monday that it inked a deal with Forge Biologics to make Myr-201, a gene therapy indicated for monogenic hearing loss. The target patient population, Myrtelle said, is people with a type of hearing loss called DFNB8, or autosomal recessive deafness 8.

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Pfizer and BioNTech's original Marvel comic book links evolving Covid vaccine science to Avengers' evolving villain-fighting tools.(Source: Pfizer LinkedIn post)

Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech part­ner with Mar­vel for Avengers and Covid-fight­ing com­ic book

Pfizer and BioNTech are collaborating with Marvel to celebrate “everyday” people getting Covid-19 vaccines in a custom comic book.

In the “Everyday Heroes” digital comic book, an evolving Ultron, one of the Avengers’ leading villains, is defeated by Captain America, Ironman and others. The plotline and history of Ultron is explained by a grandfather who is waiting with his family at a clinic for Covid-19 vaccinations.

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FDA+ roundup: Ad­comm date set for Cy­to­ki­net­ics heart drug; New gener­ic drug guid­ance to re­duce fa­cil­i­ty de­lays

The FDA on Wednesday set Dec. 13 as the day that its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will review Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug, meaning regulators aren’t likely to meet the Nov. 30 PDUFA date that was previously set.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil, read out its first Phase III in November 2020, hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as the key to breaking into the market, failing to significantly differ in reducing cardiovascular death from placebo.

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Car­olyn Bertozzi (Illustration: Assistant editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Car­olyn Bertozzi, re­peat biotech founder and launch­er of a field, shares in chem­istry No­bel win

Carolyn Bertozzi, predicted by some to become a Nobel laureate, clinched one of the world’s top awards in the wee hours of Wednesday, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside a repeat winner and a Copenhagen researcher.

The Stanford professor, Morten Meldal of University of Copenhagen and 2001-awardee K. Barry Sharpless of Scripps shared the prize equally. The Nobel is sometimes split in quarters and/or halves.

Eli Lil­ly and Te­va pre­pare for court bat­tle over mi­graine med ri­val­ry

It looks like Eli Lilly and Teva Pharmaceuticals are going to trial.

A federal appeals court on Monday refused to invalidate three of Teva’s patents for its migraine treatment Ajovy, while also declining to issue a summary judgment in favor of either company, which would effectively end the case without a full trial.

Teva filed suit against Lilly back in 2018, alleging that the company infringed upon nine patents with its rival migraine drug Emgality. The rival drugs were both approved in September 2018 for the preventative treatment of migraine, and are designed to block calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a protein associated with the onset of migraine pain.

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