Atre­ca banks a $125M mega-round as it builds a pipeline of an­ti­bod­ies for can­cer and pon­ders IPO tim­ing

In an­oth­er sign that the mon­ey back­ing up­start biotechs — and the val­ue at­tached to new drugs — con­tin­ues to swell, Red­wood City, CA-based Atre­ca to­day is pulling back the cov­ers from a $125 mil­lion mega-round de­signed to get through the ini­tial pre­clin­i­cal phase of de­vel­op­ment.

John Or­win

The work at Atre­ca cen­ters on a plat­form tech that takes tis­sue sam­ples from can­cer pa­tients to ex­plore for ide­al an­ti­bod­ies, us­ing B cells as their sound­ing board. If that seems fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause it’s the same ba­sic tech ap­proach that Seat­tle-based On­coRe­sponse is us­ing, as I re­port­ed ear­li­er in the week with their $40 mil­lion round.

“These an­ti­bod­ies form in the con­text of the pa­tients’ re­sponse, but the anti­gens they’re tar­get­ing are not unique to the pa­tient,” Atre­ca CEO John Or­win tells me. In­stead, they’re af­ter a broad pa­tient pop­u­la­tion that can ben­e­fit. And they’re sleuthing sam­ples in ways that should de­liv­er ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­pies that can be used to tar­get a va­ri­ety of can­cer types — an­oth­er com­mon strat­e­gy in the field.

The CEO notes that the B cells they in­ter­ro­gate “are ex­treme­ly in­for­ma­tion-rich cells” that re­searchers can use to “cap­ture the se­quence in­for­ma­tion used in bioin­for­mat­ics to turn in­to reagents with an eye to de­vel­op­ing an­ti­bod­ies.”

“It’s the way we gen­er­ate the da­ta and the way we use the da­ta to se­lect what we take in­to pre­clin­i­cal test­ing and the way we do pre­clin­i­cal test­ing that we think gives us sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages,” he adds.

By ramp­ing up an in­dus­tri­al ap­proach to the plat­form, Or­win — who helmed Re­lyp­sa un­til its $1.53 bil­lion buy­out — and his crew of 65 at Atre­ca are al­so as­sem­bling a pipeline of ther­a­pies that should in­clude plen­ty of can­di­dates for new bis­pecifics and an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates as well.

Their first Phase I should get un­der­way next year, says the CEO. The $125 mil­lion should last in­to 2020, giv­ing Atre­ca some breath­ing room in 2019 to con­sid­er the right time for an IPO.

Cur­rent­ly on its third round, Atre­ca’s lead in­vestor is stay­ing qui­et for now. That’s a bit un­usu­al at this stage of the game for a round this size. But there were plen­ty of in­vestors in the syn­di­cate who were ready to flag their par­tic­i­pa­tion. They in­clude Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny and Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, based in Boston. New in­vestors Ais­ling Cap­i­tal, Box­er Cap­i­tal of the Tavi­s­tock Group, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Red­mile Group, Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal, and funds man­aged by Tekla Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment al­so pitched in.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture

At­las rais­es new $400M fund amid spree of VC rais­es. Here’s what they’ll spend it on

You can add another few hundred million to the now Montana-sized reservoir of cash biotech VCs have raised since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Atlas Venture, the prominent Kendall Square incubator, has raised $400 million for its twelfth biotech fund, their first in 3 years. After a string of mammoth new raises from other major VCs in April and May, the total pot now stands between $5 billion and $6 billion, depending on how you slice it.

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