Af­ter fruit­less talks, a bid from Vas and plen­ty of pa­tience, AveX­is CEO Sean Nolan slow­ly reeled in an $8.7B deal

AveX­is CEO Sean Nolan

Some­times, it pays to be pa­tient. In Sean Nolan’s case, it was per­son­al­ly worth tens of mil­lions of dol­lars.

Af­ter watch­ing the cork bob in the wa­ter for months, the AveX­is CEO got his first hard strike on June 29 last year when an ad­mir­er of­fered to buy the com­pa­ny for $112 a share, with a mix of cash and stock.

He and the board threw it right back, even though his own stock was trad­ing at that time for $81.69.

The bio­phar­ma, iden­ti­fied in a re­cent SEC fil­ing as Com­pa­ny B, wasn’t done. A $118 of­fer was fol­lowed by $130, and by the end of Ju­ly, they were in to con­duct due dili­gence.

It didn’t go any­where, though, with Com­pa­ny B walk­ing away in Au­gust, un­able to put a deal to­geth­er. And that’s some­thing that Nolan prob­a­bly laughs about these days.

Vas­ant Narasimhan, No­var­tis

In the com­ing months, AveX­is shares would surge as it be­came clear that the FDA would be will­ing to con­sid­er very ear­ly-stage da­ta on its gene ther­a­py for spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy, a po­ten­tial ground­break­er in that field. And on Feb­ru­ary 16, af­ter the top BD guys at No­var­tis had be­gun talks about an al­liance, the new­ly pro­mot­ed CEO Vas Narasimhan jumped on the phone and of­fered Nolan $190 a share.

Nolan de­murred, but al­lowed that he was in­ter­est­ed.

There were plen­ty more com­mu­ni­ca­tions — even a sud­den ap­pear­ance by “Com­pa­ny C” which end­ed up of­fer­ing $185 with an in­tent to find some added val­ue. But Narasimhan got what he want­ed when he hiked No­var­tis bid to $218, with a sweet­en­er to $225 if No­var­tis has to ex­tend the of­fer.

Suku­mar Na­gen­dran

They closed on April 6 at $8.7 bil­lion, with an 88% pre­mi­um on the shares and close to twice the first bid made by Com­pa­ny B.

Nolan’s ex­it pack­age is worth $64.5 mil­lion.

Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer Suku­mar Na­gen­dran gets $23.4 mil­lion.

James L’Ital­ien, the chief reg­u­la­to­ry of­fi­cer, gets $19 mil­lion.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

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Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Mark Mal­lon charts post-Iron­wood course by tak­ing CEO job at NeoGe­nomics; Glax­o­SmithK­line vet Feng Ren joins In­sil­i­co as CSO

Mark Mallon steps aside at Ironwood on March 12 after close to two years at the helm, and he already has a new change of scenery squared away. Beginning April 19, Mallon takes charge as CEO of cancer-focused genetic test maker NeoGenomics out of Fort Myers, FL while his predecessor, Douglas VanOort, is retiring after 12 years as NeoGenomics’ chairman and CEO.

It’s a fresh start for Mallon after what will amount to a tumultuous 23 months as Ironwood’s chief executive. Last year was marked by trial failures that spelled double trouble, leaving the Ironwood cupboard bare: first, a Linzess reformulation for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D) in May, and then the drug IW-3718 for persistent acid reflux in September. After IW-3718’s discontinuation, Ironwood chopped its staff by 35%. On Feb. 8, Mallon announced his departure at Ironwood, with president Tom McCourt getting bumped up to interim CEO.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

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Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Covid-19 roundup: Mer­ck­'s $356M sup­ply deal on hold as FDA asks for more da­ta; FDA ap­proves Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech vac­cine stor­age at stan­dard freez­er temps

Merck is pushing back plans to supply the US government with a Covid-19 drug after the FDA asked for more data to support an emergency use authorization.

The antibody, MK-7110, had looked promising in a Phase III study conducted by OncoImmune before Merck came along and bought the biotech for $425 million. At the interim analysis, investigators looked at data from 203 patients and concluded that a single dose of the drug cut the risk of death or respiratory failure by more than 50% among severe patients. And those taking the drug had a 60% higher chance of improvement in clinical status compared to placebo.

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CEO Fred Aslan (Artiva)

NK cell ther­a­py play­er Arti­va makes some more noise, pulling in $120M Se­ries B less than a month af­ter Mer­ck deal

Not even one month after Big Pharma took notice of Artiva when Merck signed a collaboration worth nearly $2 billion in milestones, the off-the-shelf NK cell biotech already has its next big fundraise.

Artiva returns from the venture well Friday with a $120 million Series B round, money they will use to get their first program into the clinic and to file INDs for another two candidates. The raise marks the latest development in a rapidly expanding footprint for Artiva, which, in addition to the Merck deal last month, has now raised almost $200 million since its Series A last June.