Bain’s Adam Kop­pel com­mits $350M to launch­ing a new biotech that is carv­ing out Pfiz­er’s neu­ro pipeline

Adam Kop­pel and his team at Bain Cap­i­tal are carv­ing out the neu­ro­sciences pipeline that Pfiz­er shut­tered at the be­gin­ning of the year, set­ting aside $350 mil­lion to back a start­up called Cerev­el which will now take con­trol of the work.

All of the mon­ey for this deal — to be an­nounced lat­er Tues­day morn­ing — is com­ing from Bain Cap­i­tal Pri­vate Eq­ui­ty and Kop­pel’s Bain Cap­i­tal Life Sci­ences.

Doug Gior­dano

Pfiz­er star­tled the neu­ro­sciences world at the be­gin­ning of this year with its de­ci­sion to abrupt­ly bow out of the field — ax­ing about 300 staffers in the process. Now Kop­pel is work­ing on re­cruit­ing his own team, which will be charged with tak­ing their 10 pro­grams through a planned Phase III, a Phase II and a slate of pre­clin­i­cal and ear­ly-stage work.

“This is a very unique deal for Bain Cap­i­tal,” Kop­pel tells me. But it’s al­so not like­ly the last time the pri­vate eq­ui­ty group will stand up new com­pa­nies like this. He com­pares it to Spring­Works, a com­pa­ny fund­ed by Bain, Or­biMed and oth­ers that took a slate of 4 drug pro­grams off the shelves of Pfiz­er last fall and point­ed them back in­to de­vel­op­ment.

The start­up al­so pops up in the wake of a sim­i­lar deal at Al­lo­gene, which raced to pick up Pfiz­er’s off-the-shelf CAR-T work and bar­rel straight in­to a record-set­ting IPO to back the play by Arie Bellde­grun and David Chang. In Al­lo­gene’s case though, the part­ners were gift­ed with a team of 40 Pfiz­er re­searchers who were deeply en­gaged in the process.

In this case, Kop­pel says they are bring­ing over a few Pfiz­er staffers, but not many. “There are a cou­ple of key peo­ple com­ing over, but it’s not a lot, as we are large­ly fo­cused on build­ing out a team,” he notes.

Aside from Pfiz­er’s BACE drug, which is be­ing left aside in the wake of a de­fin­i­tive late-stage fail­ure for the lead BACE at Mer­ck, Cerev­el is get­ting every­thing Pfiz­er had, with plans to be ful­ly op­er­a­tional in Q1 2019.

Mor­ris Birn­baum

Pfiz­er, which gets 25% of the eq­ui­ty in Cerev­el in ex­change for the pipeline, al­so plans to stay di­rect­ly en­gaged at the com­pa­ny, with Doug Gior­dano, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of world­wide busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, and Mor­ris Birn­baum, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, CSO of in­ter­nal med­i­cine, join­ing the board along­side Kop­pel and Chris Gor­don, an­oth­er man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Bain.

Kop­pel is still keep­ing many of his cards close to his vest. He’s not say­ing how many staffers he ex­pects to re­cruit for the ini­tial ef­fort. An IPO may even­tu­al­ly be one way to go, but it’s not on his agen­da for dis­cussing with writ­ers to­day. 

The com­pa­ny won’t lack for mon­ey; Bain is ready to put up more cash if nec­es­sary.

Says Kop­pel: “This com­pa­ny will be well fund­ed.”

Their mon­ey will go to a late-stage D1 par­tial ag­o­nist, which Kop­pel ex­pects to en­ter Phase III next year as they ex­plore the drug’s po­ten­tial for con­trol­ling symp­toms of Parkin­son’s. A Phase II-ready se­lec­tive GA­BA 2/3 ag­o­nist will start off in an epilep­sy pro­gram. The com­pa­ny al­so has ac­tive pro­grams in ear­ly de­vel­op­ment, dis­cov­ery and a re­search pro­gram in neu­roin­flam­ma­tion. 

I sug­gest­ed that neu­ro­sciences, which has seen a va­ri­ety of Big Phar­mas bow out in the wake of fear­some fail­ure rates, was a tough field to jump in­to. But Kop­pel didn’t agree, cit­ing cas­es where Sage, Neu­ro­crine and oth­ers have been mak­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for them­selves.

The key here, he says, is whether a lean­er, mean­er biotech ma­chine can more ef­fi­cient­ly de­vel­op this pipeline of drugs, which is an idea that Pfiz­er is wide open to. And if it works, they can be one of the lead­ing biotechs in the field as well.


Im­age: Adam Kop­pel. BAIN

Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock to be act­ing FDA com­mis­sion­er while Biden team fi­nal­izes nom­i­nee — re­ports

Janet Woodcock is set to be the most powerful person at the FDA in less than a week.

The veteran regulator and longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has been tapped as acting commissioner of the FDA, according to reports by BioCentury’s Steve Usdin and Pink Sheet’s Sarah Karlin-Smith.

The appointment was requested by the incoming Biden team, Karlin-Smith added, as they sort out the nomination of a permanent successor to Stephen Hahn — whose one-year tenure has been defined by Covid-19.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Janet Wood­cock is in the run­ning for FDA com­mis­sion­er — what does that mean for the agen­cy's fu­ture?

Just a day after reports emerged that Janet Woodcock will serve as interim chief of the FDA, word has gotten out that she is also in the running for the permanent job.

The decision, as the initial wave of reactions suggest, could have dramatic implications for where the agency is headed in the next four years — if not beyond.

Woodcock, the longtime CDER director, is being vetted alongside former FDA principal deputy commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Bloomberg reported. Already tapped as acting head of the agency, she’s set to take over from Stephen Hahn right after Biden’s inauguration next week.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

Paint­ing by the num­bers, Sana founders carve up a gi­ant uni­corn-sized IPO — for a biotech that has­n't quite made it to the clin­ic

Sana Biotechnology is one of those startups that was sketched in on the chalkboard day one in the shape of a unicorn.

A giant unicorn.

And from the numbers the cell therapy 2.0 play spelled out in their S-1 $SANA, it’s clear that the company founders — led by a pair of major VCs aligned with some high-profile industry figures — are hunting a big chunk of that value for themselves.

The raise they penciled in — $150 million — isn’t likely what they actually have in mind, and it doesn’t do justice to the size of their ambitions.

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Eli Lil­ly re-ups di­ver­si­ty pledge, pitch­ing in $30M to ven­ture fund for mi­nor­i­ty-owned health­care firms

The fight against racial injustice spurred by a series of high-profile shootings of Black men by police earlier this year put Big Pharma and healthcare — industries targeted for their lack of diversity — in the hot seat. Eli Lilly made an early pledge to change its ways and put more back into the community, and now it’s continuing to make good on that commitment.

Lilly will infuse $30 million into the Unseen Capital Health Fund, a venture fund looking to invest in early-stage minority-owned healthcare companies that have been historically “unseen” by the investment community, the pharma said Friday.

Laurie Glimcher, Dana-Farber president and CEO (Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: With its rank-and-file churn­ing out star­tups, Dana-Far­ber launch­es ven­ture fund to cap­i­tal­ize on that suc­cess

The pace of innovation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in recent years has seen a wave of startups launch with IP or leadership sourced from the nonprofit’s ranks. Now, looking for its own returns on that success, Dana-Farber has launched a new venture fund to invest in those fledgling businesses.

On Thursday, Dana-Farber unveiled Binney Street Capital — its first-ever venture fund. Roche and Verily veteran Luba Greenwood has been tapped to lead the fund, which was named after the location of the institute’s Boston site.

CEO Brett Monia (Ionis)

Can Brett Mo­nia push Io­n­is be­yond Spin­raza?

For 30 years, Brett Monia struggled as one of Ionis’ top scientists to get their antisense technology to work. Now, as CEO, he’s trying to use it to turn Ionis into one of the industry’s biggest biotechs.

Monia, one of the handful of young scientists who in 1989 followed Stanley Crooke across the country from SmithKline (now GSK) in Philadelphia to found Ionis in Northern California, replaced Crooke as CEO last January. By then, they had proven antisense, an RNA-based method for manipulating gene expression, could work dramatically well in at least some instances, transforming spinal muscular atrophy with the Biogen-partnered blockbuster Spinraza.

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David Kessler in April 2009 (Eric Risberg/AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Hack­ers start re­leas­ing 'ma­nip­u­lat­ed' Covid-19 vac­cine docs; Ex-FDA com­mish David Kessler to re­place Mon­cef Slaoui as Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief — re­port

There’s a new twist on the EMA Covid-19 hacking story.

Friday the European agency put out the 5th in a series of statements about the hackers who broke into their system, noting that some of the information on vaccines that was gleaned in the attack is showing up online — altered to raise questions about the Covid-19 vaccines now in use.

This included internal/confidential email correspondence dating from November, relating to evaluation processes for COVID-19 vaccines. Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines.

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A long­time Pfiz­er chief's ul­tra-qui­et biotech re-emerges with new cash and plans for the clin­ic

In August 2018, a tiny biotech spinout from Cornell announced they had hired former high-ranking Pfizer executive Geno Germano as CEO. And then they said nothing else. For two years. Literally, the company, called Elucida Oncology, did not issue a single other press release until this past October, when they hired a chief medical officer.

Now, though, Elucida seems to be ready to start taking the lid off their operations. On Tuesday at JP Morgan, Germano walked investors through the nanoparticle technology they’ve been developing for cancer. And the same day, the company announced a new financing, raising $44 million in a Series “A-1” round meant to propel them into the clinic this year.

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Terry Rosen, Arcus CEO

Gilead part­ner Ar­cus earns an­a­lyst­s' plau­dits for ear­ly pan­cre­at­ic can­cer da­ta that 'ex­ceed­ed ex­pec­ta­tion­s'

Arcus’ small molecule CD73 inhibitor for pancreatic cancer got a standing ovation from analysts who said preliminary data “exceeded expectations”— making waves in a field that’s seen little progress in several years and proving the candidate could be worth the hundreds of millions Gilead provided upfront in a deal that included more than a billion dollars for opt-in rights and milestones.

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