Ocean Biomedical CEO Elizabeth Ng (L) and Aesther CEO Suren Ajjarapu

Af­ter ditch­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cle parts mak­er, a SPAC choos­es a Brown spin­out that had test­ed the IPO wa­ters

While the mar­ket re­mains dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, the lat­est SPAC merg­er shows that biotechs and blank checks are still will­ing to brace the chop­py wa­ters — and for both par­ties in­volved in the lat­est deal, it’s not their first at­tempt at a suc­cess­ful voy­age on­to Wall Street.

Ocean Bio­med­ical want­ed to go the IPO route but that didn’t pan out.

Aes­ther Health­care Ac­qui­si­tion, the biotech’s SPAC part­ner that was dis­closed Wednes­day, orig­i­nal­ly want­ed to merge with a gear mak­er for elec­tric ve­hi­cles but that May plan went bust in Ju­ly.

The biotech is a spin­out from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty and was found­ed by its dean of med­i­cine, Jack Elias, and the chair of pathol­o­gy and lab­o­ra­to­ry med­i­cine at Brown, Jake Kur­tis. Physi­cian and en­tre­pre­neur Chir­in­jeev Kathuria was al­so a found­ing mem­ber. Eliz­a­beth Ng, a for­mer di­rec­tor of strat­e­gy de­vel­op­ment at Mer­ck, serves as the com­pa­ny’s CEO.

Ocean’s can­di­dates come from in­sti­tu­tion­al ties as Brown has li­censed their NSCLC, glioblas­toma mul­ti­forme and pul­monary fi­bro­sis can­di­dates, while Rhode Is­land Hos­pi­tal li­censed their malar­ia vac­cine pro­gram to the com­pa­ny. Their in­flam­ma­tion can­di­date sought to treat Covid-19 by re­duc­ing cy­tokines and comes from Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, ac­cord­ing to a snap­shot in End­points News’ IPO track­er last year.

The trans­ac­tion will see the val­ue of the com­bined com­pa­ny sit at around $345 mil­lion.

The com­pa­ny ini­tial­ly tried to brave the wa­ters on its own with an IPO last year — try­ing to raise $50 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 6.3 mil­lion shares with hopes to hit a ceil­ing of around $100 mil­lion. Those plans were damp­ened in Feb­ru­ary, ac­cord­ing to Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal, re­port­ing the com­pa­ny cut its IPO am­bi­tions to around $22 mil­lion.

“We think that com­bi­na­tion will re­sult in pos­i­tive val­u­a­tions and long-term growth, as we con­tin­u­al­ly fo­cus on iden­ti­fy­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing promis­ing dis­cov­er­ies,” said Aes­ther CEO Suren Aj­jara­pu in a state­ment.

Aj­jara­pu, chief ex­ec­u­tive of on­line drug mar­ket­place TRx­ADE Health, got the SPAC on Nas­daq in Sep­tem­ber 2021. The com­pa­ny was look­ing to make pur­chas­es re­lat­ed to tar­gets in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, medtech and health­care IT space.

While the mar­ket has not been kind to SPAC merg­ers as of late, such as Am­i­cus and Per­spec­tive call­ing off their deal, some have man­aged to go for­ward. Ear­li­er this sum­mer, Tim Lu’s Sen­ti Bio wrapped up its merg­er with Omid Farokhzad’s blank check com­pa­ny, pulling to­geth­er $140.3 mil­lion in gross pro­ceeds, but this was far from the $296 mil­lion ex­pect­ed when the merg­er was first an­nounced.

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.

Bob Duggan (Duggan Investments)

Biotech bil­lion­aire Bob Dug­gan flies the white flag as Sum­mit hunts a new own­er, or part­ner, for sole clin­i­cal-stage ef­fort

Bob Duggan’s Summit Therapeutics $SMMT is running out of moves for its sole clinical-stage candidate.

The biotech issued a terse statement in an SEC filing that it’s pulling the plug on the only active clinical trial for ridinilazole, which has been through a failed late-stage trial for C. difficile. A pediatric study is being curtailed as Summit says it decided a few days ago to either partner out the therapy or get a buyer — if they can find one.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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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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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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User fees in ac­tion: FDA un­veils new short­ened sup­ple­ment re­view, rare dis­ease pi­lots

Thanks to PDUFA VII, signed into law last Friday by President Joe Biden, the FDA this week unveiled two new industry-friendly pilot programs to advance new rare disease endpoints via additional meetings, and to shorten FDA review times for supplemental apps aimed at unmet medical needs.

The agency this week released eagerly-awaited details behind the shortened pilot, known as the Split Real Time Application Review or STAR pilot program, which will speed up certain FDA reviews of efficacy supplements across all therapeutic areas (thanks to earlier submissions of data), but only for those that propose addressing an unmet medical need.

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