Bausch Health sells off Amoun for $740M; Achilles de­buts on Nas­daq with $175.5M IPO

Look­ing to pay down debt ahead of the big Bausch + Lomb spin­off, Bausch Health CEO Joseph Pa­pa has struck a deal to sell one of its units in Egypt for $740 mil­lion.

Abu Dhabi-based hold­ing com­pa­ny ADB is hand­ing over the cash for Amoun Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, which makes and mar­kets brand­ed gener­ics and an­i­mal health prod­ucts, will be the new own­er.

“The sale of Amoun marks sig­nif­i­cant progress in our ef­forts to re­duce over­all Bausch Health debt as we con­tin­ue to pur­sue all op­por­tu­ni­ties to dri­ve val­ue for our share­hold­ers, in­clud­ing prepar­ing for the spin­off of Bausch + Lomb,” said Joseph Pa­pa, chair­man and CEO, Bausch Health.

Some an­a­lysts have been look­ing for a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in mar­ket val­ue for Bausch + Lomb af­ter it goes so­lo. “An in­de­pen­dent Bausch & Lomb unit could have more room and fo­cus to ex­pand its glob­al mar­ket share, but lever­age re­duc­tion may still be a pri­or­i­ty af­ter its spin­off,” not­ed Bloomberg In­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst Ann-Hunter van Kirk. — John Car­roll

Britain’s Achilles Ther­a­peu­tics de­buts on Nas­daq with $175.5M IPO

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er IPO in the seem­ing­ly end­less cas­cade of pub­lic biotech de­buts.

The newest win­ner is Lon­don-based Achilles Ther­a­peu­tics, prep­ping to hit the Nas­daq af­ter pric­ing at $18 per ADS on Tues­day evening. No stray ar­rows took down this ef­fort, as Achilles pulled in a $175.5 mil­lion raise as it takes its T cell ther­a­pies tar­get­ing clon­al neoanti­gens to Nas­daq.

Achilles will trade un­der the tick­er $ACHL.

Co-found­ed by Char­lie Swan­ton of the Fran­cis Crick In­sti­tute, Achilles aims to lever­age heavy se­quenc­ing to iden­ti­fy a pa­tient-spe­cif­ic set of tu­mor mu­ta­tions that it can tar­get. Un­like oth­er neoanti­gen pi­o­neers like Grit­stone On­col­o­gy, Neon Ther­a­peu­tics and BioN­Tech, Achilles is look­ing to di­rect­ly de­liv­er can­cer killing T cells rather than stim­u­lat­ing an im­mune re­sponse via a vac­cine.

Achilles got a boost in Sep­tem­ber 2019 with a $121 mil­lion Se­ries B thanks to a syn­di­cate led by RA Cap­i­tal. And in No­vem­ber 2020, the biotech pulled in an­oth­er $69.7 mil­lion for an over­sub­scribed Se­ries C. — Max Gel­man

Seat­tle’s On­coRe­sponse nets $40M+ Se­ries C

Two and a half years since its last fundraise, On­coRe­sponse is back with some more cash.

The Seat­tle-based com­pa­ny raised $40.6 mil­lion in a Se­ries C fi­nanc­ing, led by mem­bers of the Mag­ne­tar Group with par­tic­i­pa­tion from ad­di­tion­al new in­vestors Yon­jin Ven­ture and Bering Cap­i­tal. Funds will pri­mar­i­ly go to­ward get­ting the biotech’s lead an­ti­body, OR2805, in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in mul­ti­ple tu­mor types and build­ing up a pipeline of pre­clin­i­cal as­sets to IND.

“OR2805 was de­rived from a can­cer pa­tient who had an ex­cep­tion­al re­sponse to an­ti-PD-1 ther­a­py and re­lieves the im­muno­sup­pres­sive ef­fect of macrophages found in the [tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment] to pro­mote tu­mor killing by T cells,” CEO Clif­ford Stocks said in a state­ment. “We will be en­ter­ing clin­i­cal stud­ies in mul­ti­ple tu­mor types lat­er this year.”

Ex­ist­ing in­vestors River­Vest Ven­ture Part­ners, Qatar In­vest­ment Au­thor­i­ty (QIA), Red­mile Group, 3B Fu­ture Health Fund (Helsinn In­vest­ment Fund), Canaan Part­ners and ARCH Ven­ture Part­ners al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed. — Max Gel­man

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

LLS backs 5 new can­cer drug projects with up to $50M; Trodelvy con­tin­ues to im­press with more TNBC da­ta

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has tapped 5 new early-stage projects to back with up to $10 million each in fresh investments. The 5 biotechs are:

— Caribou, headed by Rachel Haurwitz and co-founded by Jennifer Doudna, is working on next-gen, off-the-shelf CAR-Ts to replace the patient-derived cells now in use.

— The LLS supported NexImmune’s IPO, helping fund its work on nanoparticles that can gin up an immune response directed at cancer cells. The biotech has 2 projects now in Phase I trials.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.