Bain leads big $70M round as Aptinyx plunges deep­er in­to NM­DA work

Two years af­ter Aptinyx spun out of Nau­rex in the wake of Al­ler­gan’s $560 mil­lion buy­out, the biotech is much fur­ther along in the pipeline than your av­er­age fledg­ling. It just tacked on a hefty $70 mil­lion B round to beef up the work and dri­ve deep­er to­ward a piv­otal phase of de­vel­op­ment. And the new kid on the VC block, Bain Cap­i­tal Life Sci­ences, jumped out to lead the round, with man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam Kop­pel join­ing the board.

Nor­bert Riedel

The biotech didn’t ex­act­ly have to have that kind of mon­ey right now, says CEO Nor­bert Riedel, but when you’re look­ing to keep your op­tions open for every even­tu­al­i­ty — in­clud­ing a po­ten­tial IPO — a mez­za­nine round like this can make a lot of sense.

“We de­cid­ed to do this round to re­main in a re­al­ly, re­al­ly strong po­si­tion,” says Riedel, who’s stayed in touch pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly as he ex­plores find­ing just the right way to mod­u­late NM­DA re­cep­tors for a va­ri­ety of dis­eases.

Al­ler­gan bagged the group’s work on de­pres­sion, avid to leap in­to a late-stage study with an NM­DA drug that’s promi­nent in their Phase III pipeline. And Al­ler­gan was fine with leav­ing the rest of Nau­rex’s ex­per­i­men­tal work in the hands of the team that had brought it along. The break­away biotech is still fo­cused on NM­DA, but the lead pro­gram for NYX-2925 is in a Phase II for neu­ropa­thy pain with some ex­plorato­ry work un­der­way in fi­bromyal­gia. Next there’s a Phase I for NYX-783 in PTSD and a pre­clin­i­cal pro­gram mov­ing to­ward its first hu­man study.

“Now we can con­tin­ue to de­vel­op our pipeline un­til the end of 2019, about 2 years,” says the CEO. And that should give them time to col­lect Phase II da­ta on the two lead drugs and make some key de­ci­sions about when to launch Phase III, if all goes ac­cord­ing to plan.

Adam Kop­pel

Bain was a good fit for the lead on this round, which at­tract­ed a big group of in­vestors fol­low­ing the $65 mil­lion launch round. Ricky Sun played a big part in this, right along with Kop­pel. Both are Bio­gen vets, notes Riedel, and no strangers to CNS re­search.

Why not do an IPO now, with the win­dow open?

Riedel isn’t ex­clud­ing that op­tion for 2018, but he felt now was the right time to make sure the com­pa­ny was well fi­nanced. Part­ner­ships, IPOs and fur­ther fi­nanc­ings can all be stud­ied at a mea­sured pace.

“I think we’re in no rush,” Kop­pel tells me. “This is one we’re go­ing to be pa­tient with.”

What does Kop­pel see as his main role?

Play­ing a key role in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the crossovers and pub­lic in­vestors dur­ing a tran­si­tion to fo­cus on the “longterm in­vestor with fun­da­men­tal val­ue cre­ation, not just the next step.”

If the time is right for an IPO in late 2018 or ear­ly 2019, they may go for it, he says. In the mean­time, he counts him­self as a big fan of Riedel and the whole team at Aptinyx.

Here’s the rest of the syn­di­cate:

New in­vestors with Bain in­clude Adage Cap­i­tal, Agent Cap­i­tal, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Nan Fung Life Sci­ences, Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment, and Rock Springs Cap­i­tal. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Se­ries B round, in­clud­ing New Leaf Ven­ture Part­ners, Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, Lon­gi­tude Cap­i­tal, Os­age Uni­ver­si­ty Part­ners, Adams Street Part­ners, LVP Life Sci­ence Ven­tures, Patho­Cap­i­tal, Goudy Park Cap­i­tal, Beeck­en Pet­ty O’Keefe & Com­pa­ny, and North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty.

 

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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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

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.