As Roivant’s uni­corn val­u­a­tion swells to $7B, Ra­maswamy scoops up $200M to back a new burst of star­tups

Vivek Ra­maswamy nev­er hid his am­bi­tions in swift­ly build­ing Roivant in­to a glob­al bio­phar­ma play­er. But now he’s of­fer­ing some new de­tails about just how suc­cess­ful he’s been in grow­ing the com­pa­ny’s mega-block­buster uni­corn val­u­a­tion while con­tin­u­ing to bring in sig­nif­i­cant new amounts of cash to keep adding to the num­ber of com­pa­nies and drugs un­der his watch. 

To­day Roivant is un­veil­ing a $200 mil­lion raise for the com­pa­ny — bring­ing the to­tal to more than $3 bil­lion from all sources. And the biotech um­brel­la group — which op­er­ates a dozen pub­lic and pri­vate op­er­a­tions — says this new mon­ey came in with a val­u­a­tion of $7 bil­lion for Roivant — which a com­pa­ny spokesman says is up from $5.6 bil­lion from its last raise in 2017.

What changed?

There are 8 more com­pa­nies — 14 to­tal now. And there are 20 more drugs, 34 in all, in­clud­ing many late-stage ef­forts with some grand de­signs of their own. Where 350 had been work­ing at last year’s raise, Roivant’s many branch­es now has staff to­tal­ing 750.

There are al­so 6 late-stage read­outs on tap for next year. And some of Ra­maswamy’s star­tups, like Data­vant, are ex­pect­ed to build rev­enue.

Matt Bullard

That pro­file fit the bill for No­vaQue­st Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment — al­ready an in­vestor in 2 of Roivant’s com­pa­nies — and RTW In­vest­ments, which both went pub­lic with their in­vest­ments. There’s al­so a “large in­sur­ance com­pa­ny” back­ing the lat­est raise, ac­cord­ing to a com­pa­ny spokesper­son, which helps il­lus­trate Ra­maswamy’s be­lief that in­sur­ers will be do­ing more in­vest­ing in their own fu­ture. 

“We got to know the team at Roivant and walked away re­al­ly im­pressed,” says Matt Bullard at No­vaQue­st, which has re­port­ed­ly been work­ing with a $1.5 bil­lion fund that it’s been build­ing. “We like the sta­ble, long-term val­ue that’s there.”

Bullard is al­so keen about Roivant’s port­fo­lio mod­el, where a line­up of star­tups are fo­cused quick­ly on late-stage de­vel­op­ment projects. The ex­ec­u­tive crews at each are al­so in­cen­tivized to con­cen­trate on those Phase III stud­ies and get the job done as ef­fi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble, he adds. And the Roivant group con­tin­ues to launch more new com­pa­nies every year. 

Ra­maswamy, 33, hasn’t reached this point with­out plen­ty of con­tro­ver­sy. A num­ber of in­vestors re­mains bit­ter about his first re­al test at drug de­vel­op­ment: a late-stage re-try at Ax­o­vant on a failed Alzheimer’s drug. But that set­back nev­er slowed him down. The up­beat Ra­maswamy has stayed fo­cused on rais­ing cash and val­u­a­tions for the port­fo­lio or­ga­ni­za­tion, and he’s con­tin­ued to bring in in­vestors will­ing to bankroll his work.

“We en­joy work­ing with these guys and ex­pect great things,” adds Bullard, whose com­pa­ny is most com­fort­able back­ing late-stage projects with a pay­off that of­ten comes from roy­al­ties and mile­stones. “They’re quite ag­gres­sive about bring­ing in new pro­grams.”

Im­age: Vivek Ra­maswamy at the US-Chi­na Bio­phar­ma In­no­va­tion and In­vest­ment Sum­mit 2018. END­POINTS NEWS, PHARM­CUBE

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at with any issues.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.

FDA asks why No­var­tis took two months to launch for­mal in­ter­nal probe, af­ter AveX­is flagged da­ta ma­nip­u­la­tion

And the plot thickens. Novartis $NVS officials are reportedly now scrambling to explain to the FDA why it took them two months to open an internal investigation into data discrepancies for their $2.1 million gene-therapy for spinal muscular dystrophy — the world’s most expensive drug.

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Build­ing on suc­cess­ful PD-1 pact, Eli Lil­ly li­cens­es di­a­betes drug to Chi­nese part­ners at In­novent

Eli Lilly is expanding its partnership with China’s Innovent in a deal involving a diabetes drug sitting in its Phase I reserves.

The two companies had jointly developed one of China’s first homegrown PD-1 agents, scoring an approval for Tyvyt (sintilimab) late last year for relapsed/refractory classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This time around, Lilly is out-licensing a piece of its diabetes pipeline, a leading franchise that has historically produced the top-selling Trulicity and Humalog.

UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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