Someit Sidhu, JATT (Pathios Therapeutics)

An­oth­er life sci­ences SPAC has popped up from a small biotech CEO with the help of Take­da, No­var­tis vet­er­ans

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The SPAC train has slowed down since the ex­tra­or­di­nar­i­ly high lev­els from late 2020 in­to ear­ly this year, but Tues­day saw the fil­ing of a new blank-check com­pa­ny tar­get­ing the life sci­ences in­dus­try.

Tauhid Ali

JATT Ac­qui­si­tion sub­mit­ted its SEC pa­per­work Tues­day, pen­cil­ing in an es­ti­mat­ed raise of $120 mil­lion as it sets its sights on a re­verse merg­er part­ner. The SPAC is run by Someit Sid­hu, a co-founder of Pathios Ther­a­peu­tics, as well as CEO of Akaza Bio­science and Izana Bio­science. Sid­hu will con­trol about 97% of the blank-check com­pa­ny’s shares, per the S-1.

Join­ing Sid­hu on the team are Tauhid Ali, a for­mer Take­da vet who launched three biotechs out of the phar­ma’s in­cu­ba­tor, and Arnout Ploos van Am­s­tel, for­mer head of No­var­tis’ im­munol­o­gy, he­pa­tol­ogy and der­ma­tol­ogy fran­chis­es.

Per the End­points News SPAC tal­ly, there have now been 44 blank check com­pa­nies to file, price or an­nounce a merg­er in biotech and life sci­ences. The com­bined raise has steered near­ly $15 bil­lion to the in­dus­try.

Arnout Ploos van Am­s­tel

Com­pared with some of the oth­er SPACs out there, Sid­hu is a rel­a­tive­ly un­known play­er. He doesn’t have the name recog­ni­tion of some­one like Richard Bran­son, Eli Cas­din or Vin­od Khosla, nor the os­ten­si­ble cult fol­low­ing of “SPAC King” and ear­ly Face­book ex­ec­u­tive Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya.

What he does have, at least ac­cord­ing to the SEC fil­ing, is ex­pe­ri­ence at the con­sult­ing firm McK­in­sey where he cut his teeth ad­vis­ing un­named glob­al phar­ma com­pa­nies. He al­so holds a de­gree from Ox­ford Med­ical School with an em­pha­sis on car­di­ol­o­gy and gen­er­al surgery.

Sid­hu’s two biotechs — whose web­sites, for what­ev­er rea­son, are near­ly iden­ti­cal — are part­nered with Take­da and the UK gov­ern­ment’s in­no­va­tion agency. Akaza is aim­ing to bring an old Take­da com­pound through clin­i­cal tri­als for the treat­ment of acute-on-chron­ic liv­er fail­ure, while Izana is push­ing an­oth­er for­mer Take­da pro­gram in Covid-19 and rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

For Izana specif­i­cal­ly, the strat­e­gy is at­tempt­ing to bring a failed pro­gram back to life. Take­da ter­mi­nat­ed a 2015 clin­i­cal tri­al for the can­di­date in ques­tion, namilum­ab, af­ter try­ing to eval­u­ate it for RA. Izana swooped in with a li­cens­ing deal in 2017, giv­ing Take­da an eq­ui­ty stake in ex­change for world­wide rights.

The new SPAC con­tains much of the same boil­er­plate lan­guage seen through­out the in­dus­try, though there are men­tions of a fo­cus on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and “mech­a­nis­tic ge­net­ics” with­in the S-1. As with any blank check com­pa­ny, Sid­hu will have two years to find a part­ner to com­plete the re­verse merg­er.

Though the glut of SPACs has slowed, the in­dus­try is start­ing to see more move­ment on the merg­er front. Nine biotechs have an­nounced re­verse merg­ers in the sec­ond quar­ter, rang­ing from big deals like Roivant and Gink­go Bioworks to small­er play­ers in Bet­ter Ther­a­peu­tics.

Ap­petite from reg­u­la­tors has al­so bit­ten in­to the hype in re­cent months, with the SEC an­nounc­ing it would be vol­un­tar­i­ly re­quest­ing in­fo from large banks over how they’re in­ter­nal­ly polic­ing blank-check in­vest­ment. The move fol­lowed a swath of celebri­ties get­ting in­to the SPAC ac­tion ear­li­er this year, in­clud­ing mu­si­cians Jay-Z and Cia­ra and star ath­letes Alex Ro­driguez, Shaquille O’Neal and Ser­e­na Williams.

Adap­tive De­sign Meth­ods Of­fer Rapid, Seam­less Tran­si­tion Be­tween Study Phas­es in Rare Can­cer Tri­als

Rare cancers account for 22 percent of cancer diagnoses worldwide, yet there is no universally accepted definition for a “rare” cancer. Moreover, with the evolution of genomics and associated changes in categorizing tumors, some common cancers are now characterized into groups of rare cancers, each with a unique implication for patient management and therapy.

Adaptive designs, which allow for prospectively planned modifications to study design based on accumulating data from subjects in the trial, can be used to optimize rare oncology trials (see Figure 1). Adaptive design studies may include multiple cohorts and multiple tumor types. In addition, numerous adaptation methods may be used in a single trial and may facilitate a more rapid, seamless transition between study phases.

Marianne De Backer (L) and Jeff Hatfield

Bay­er nabs star biotech Vi­vid­ion with a $2B buy­out and an ‘arms-length’ pact, pulling a part­ner out of the IPO con­ga line

Vividion is canceling that IPO it filed. Instead of following the industry-wide migration to Nasdaq, the biotech that has captured considerable attention for its still-preclinical work finding cryptic pockets to bind to on proteins is going to work for Bayer now.

The pharma giant is putting out word today that it has bought out Vividion for $1.5 billion in cash and another half-billion dollars in milestones.

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Tadataka Yamada (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sci­ence pi­o­neer, phar­ma re­search chief, glob­al health ad­vo­cate and biotech en­tre­pre­neur Tadata­ka ‘Tachi’ Ya­ma­da has died

Tadataka Yamada, a towering physician-scientist who made his name in academia before transforming drug development at GlaxoSmithKline and developing vaccines for malaria and meningitis at the Gates Foundation, died unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Seattle Wednesday morning.

He was 76. Frazier Healthcare Partners’ David Socks confirmed his death.

Known widely by the mononym “Tachi,” Yamada had a globetrotting career and arrived in industry relatively late in life. A 2004 Independent article noted GSK had asked Yamada to stay on beyond his approaching 60th birthday, the company’s usual retirement age. Yamada would continue working for the next 17 years, steering the Gates Foundation’s global health division for 6 years, funding Jim Wilson’s gene therapy work when few would touch it, launching Takeda Vaccines and co-founding a series of high-profile biotechs.

UK re-in­ves­ti­gates Pfiz­er's eye-pop­ping price goug­ing on an epilep­sy drug

When a drugmaker raises the price of a drug in the US by more than 2,000% overnight, and without any particular reason for that increase, nothing typically happens to the company. No fines, no court orders, just business as usual.

Martin Shkreli’s decades-old anti-parasitic drug Daraprim was the perfect example — massive price spike on an old drug, lots of media attention, public outcry, Congressional committees dragging his former company through multiple hearings, and at the end of it? Nothing happened to the price or the company (until generic competition came).

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva CEO

A small vac­cine de­vel­op­er fa­vored by the UK gov­ern­ment in Covid-19 touts a PhI­II first in chikun­gun­ya

Before Valneva garnered the favor of the UK government as a potential supplier of Covid-19 vaccines, the French biotech prided itself on being the first company to bring a chikungunya vaccine into Phase III.

It now has positive pivotal results to back up the breakthrough therapy designation the FDA granted just weeks ago.

There are currently no approved jabs to prevent chikungunya virus infection despite decades of R&D efforts, a fact that underscores just how arduous traditional vaccine development can be, particularly for neglected tropical disease. In a absence of a major commercial market, the US government and NGOs such as CEPI have deployed various grants and incentives to spur on a small crew of academics and industry players, with Merck, via its acquisition of Themis, claiming a spot in that race.

Josh Hoffman, outgoing Zymergen CEO (Zymergen)

UP­DAT­ED: Syn­bio uni­corn Zymer­gen jet­ti­sons found­ing CEO, cuts guid­ance as cus­tomers re­port lead prod­uct does­n't work

Zymergen, just months off a $500 million IPO that put the synthetic bio firm in rarified air, has now ejected its founding CEO and downgraded its revenue forecasts after customers reported its lead film product doesn’t work as advertised, the company said Tuesday afternoon.

CEO Josh Hoffman will leave his role and sacrifice his board seat immediately in favor of Jay Flatley, the former CEO of Illumina who will take the lead role on an interim basis as the company conducts a search for its next leader.

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Zymergen co-founders Zach Serber, Josh Hoffman, and Jed Dean (Zymergen via website)

Zymer­gen's sud­den im­plo­sion shocked biotech. A lin­ger­ing loan could make things even worse

As former synbio unicorn Zymergen picks up the pieces from its spectacular implosion Tuesday, an outstanding loan from Perceptive Advisors — the only blue-chip biotech crossover investor to touch Zymergen’s fundraising efforts — could make the situation worse, according to public documents.

In December 2019, more than a year before Zymergen filed for what would eventually become a $500 million IPO, the “biofacturing” firm signed a $100 million credit facility with Perceptive to help supplement the nearly $700 million the company had raised across four VC rounds.

Bio­gen, Ei­sai are push­ing for an­oth­er ac­cel­er­at­ed Alzheimer's OK — this time for BAN2401

Now that the door at the FDA has been opened wide for Alzheimer’s drugs that can demonstrate a reduction in amyloid, Biogen and its partners at Eisai are pushing for a quick OK on the next drug to follow in the controversial path of aducanumab.

In a presentation to analysts, Eisai neurology chief Ivan Cheung outlined some bullish expectations for their newly-approved treatment and set the stage for what he believes will be a fast follow for BAN2401 (lecanemab) — after a dry spell in new drug development that’s lasted close to 20 years.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi buys mR­NA play­er Trans­late Bio for $3.2B. And the price fits a pop­u­lar range for biotech M&A

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio $TBIO a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines, Sanofi closed the deal with a buyout early Tuesday, spending $38 a share in a $3.2 billion buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared after the market closed Monday when Reuters reported the first word of the acquisition just hours ahead of the formal announcement. The wire service, though, didn’t have a price to report in its scoop, and investors chased the stock up 78% in the wild ride that followed. Once the price was announced, gains shriveled to 29% ahead of the bell.

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