Ken Song (RayzeBio)

Bare­ly two months af­ter un­veil­ing a new breed of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Rayze­Bio brings to­tal haul to $150M

Just be­fore Ver­sant and ven­Bio of­fi­cial­ly took the wraps off Rayze­Bio with $45 mil­lion in launch mon­ey, Ken Song reached out to a few oth­er in­vestors “just to give them an overview.”

He wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly look­ing to raise mon­ey im­me­di­ate­ly, the CEO said. Where­as the Se­ries A came to­geth­er most­ly around the con­cept of a new ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny, Rayze­Bio now had more de­tails and progress around its pipeline to il­lus­trate just what its plat­form can do. But the group — com­pris­ing some firms that were known for their crossover and pub­lic port­fo­lios — be­came so en­thused that, bare­ly two months lat­er, he has $105 mil­lion more to work with.

The plan is still to have at least one de­vel­op­ment can­di­date by the sec­ond half of 2021 and start the first clin­i­cal tri­als with­in a year of that.

“We can now def­i­nite­ly pros­e­cute in par­al­lel all of our pro­grams with­out need­ing to make re­source al­lo­ca­tion de­ci­sions due to lack of cap­i­tal,” he told End­points News.

Deb­o­rah Charych

With 13 now on the pay­roll and more set to join, Song al­so wooed Er­ic Bischoff, a col­league from his Metacrine days, to join as SVP of de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions. Gary Li, the new­ly ap­point­ed head of bi­ol­o­gy and trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine, is tasked with get­ting the com­pounds ready for IND-en­abling stud­ies. Both join Song and Deb­o­rah Charych, co-founder and chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer, on the se­nior team.

RayzBio’s pro­grams, in­clud­ing the most ad­vanced one in mid-stage lead op­ti­miza­tion, have two parts: There are the pep­tide binders for a host of sol­id tu­mor tar­gets, iden­ti­fied in screen­ing by its Japan­ese part­ners at Pep­tiDream. These are then ra­di­o­la­beled with Ac­tini­um-225 with the in­tent of send­ing the pow­er­ful ra­dioiso­tope straight, and on­ly, to can­cer cells.

The biotech’s de­ci­sion to make be­spoke binders rather than re­pur­pose mol­e­cules off-the-shelf proved ap­peal­ing to in­vestors, Song said. The VCs al­so liked that it had 7 pro­grams, some of which would be first-in-class ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts if they make it.

“Be­cause if you look at most oth­er ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that are out there — I’m ex­clud­ing No­var­tis, which is a large phar­ma — but if you look at pret­ty much every­one out there, most com­pa­nies are pur­su­ing maybe 1 or 2 pro­grams at most. And many of those pro­grams tend to be sort of the same tried and true tar­gets that have al­ready been pur­sued in ra­dio­phar­ma.”

A Ven­rock fund fo­cused on pub­licly held and late-stage pri­vate plays led the round, with Or­biMed, Red­mile Group, Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments and oth­ers join­ing as new in­vestors. Ver­sant and ven­Bio re­turned for more, along­side Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal.

Bong Koh

Bong Koh from Ven­rock Health­care Cap­i­tal Part­ners is join­ing the board.

The new cash in­fu­sion will al­so fund an ex­pan­sion of the San Diego head­quar­ters as well as stud­ies in­to Rayze­Bio’s man­u­fac­tur­ing op­tions. Mak­ing ra­dioiso­tope-drug con­ju­gates, af­ter all, is a much dif­fer­ent process than typ­i­cal ther­a­pies, de­spite dra­mat­ic ad­vances in the abil­i­ty for ear­ly-stage de­vel­op­ers to se­cure ther­a­peu­tic ra­dioiso­topes.

For now, it’s go­ing with a cen­tral­ized mod­el re­ly­ing on key part­ners. But it could bring more of it in-house in the fu­ture — or try some­thing else.

“I would say every­thing is still on the ta­ble in terms of de­ter­min­ing what is the best man­u­fac­tur­ing strat­e­gy to take for­ward,” Song said.

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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