Sajith Wickramasekara, Benchling CEO

Bench­ling adds an­oth­er megaround in­to the fold, look­ing even more uni­corn-y as a pos­si­ble IPO ap­proach­es

Tout­ing its mis­sion to rev­o­lu­tion­ize R&D by bring­ing drug de­vel­op­ment in­to the cloud, Bench­ling has earned its uni­corn horn from in­vestors hun­gry for some­thing new. A new round of fi­nanc­ing will now dri­ve that eye-pop­ping val­u­a­tion even high­er.

Just sev­en months af­ter rais­ing $200 mil­lion from in­vestors in a Se­ries E, valu­ing the R&D cloud soft­ware de­vel­op­er at just over $4 bil­lion in April, Bench­ling raised $100 mil­lion in a Se­ries F round, valu­ing the com­pa­ny at a tidy $6.1 bil­lion. And this doesn’t take in­to con­sid­er­a­tion that Bench­ling was worth un­der $1 bil­lion last April, ac­cord­ing to Forbes — just af­ter the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic hit the world stage.

The round was co-led by US in­vest­ment firm Franklin Tem­ple­ton — a new in­vestor in­to Bench­ling along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Al­time­ter Cap­i­tal. New in­vestors Tiger Glob­al and Lone Pine Cap­i­tal joined in on the ac­tion, as well as ex­ist­ing in­vestors.

Bench­ling will use the fund­ing to con­tin­ue in­vest­ing in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and glob­al ex­pan­sion, the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment yes­ter­day, and specif­i­cal­ly fo­cus on ex­pand­ing its pres­ence in Eu­rope, the Mid­dle East and Africa af­ter an­nounc­ing in Jan­u­ary that it opened its EMEA head­quar­ters in Zurich.

Her’e a brief re­cap of the com­pa­ny’s fi­nanc­ing rounds:

  • $7 mil­lion Se­ries A in 2016
  •  $14.5 mil­lion Se­ries B in 2018
  •  $34.5 mil­lion Se­ries C in 2019
  •  $50 mil­lion Se­ries D in May 2020
  •  $200 mil­lion Se­ries E in April

Since an­nounc­ing the Se­ries E raise, Bench­ling has ex­pand­ed — now in­clud­ing sup­port for ear­ly-stage drug de­vel­op­ment and RNA ther­a­peu­tics, adding new peo­ple to its C-suite and adding Eu­ro­pean busi­ness­es to its clien­tele, in­clud­ing Cutiss AG, Sanofi, Se­lex­is SA, and Syn­gen­ta.

Some of Bench­ling’s oth­er high-pro­file clients in­clude Gilead, Re­gen­eron and Eli Lil­ly, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg.

And ac­cord­ing to Bench­ling’s co-founder and CEO Sajith Wick­ra­masekara, Bench­ling plans to ex­pand even more.

“With this new in­vest­ment, we’ll con­tin­ue grow­ing our teams and cus­tomer base in the US and Eu­rope,” Wick­ra­masekara said in a state­ment. “We’ll al­so keep broad­en­ing our plat­form’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port our cus­tomers’ full prod­uct life­cy­cle, from re­search through to de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er fields a CRL for a $295M rare dis­ease play, giv­ing ri­val a big head start

Pfizer won’t be adding a new rare disease drug to the franchise club — for now, anyway.

The pharma giant put out word that their FDA application for the growth hormone therapy somatrogon got the regulatory heave-ho, though they didn’t even hint at a reason for the CRL. Following standard operating procedure, Pfizer said in a terse missive that they would be working with regulators on a followup.

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Graphic: Alexander Lefterov for Endpoints News

Small biotechs with big drug am­bi­tions threat­en to up­end the tra­di­tion­al drug launch play­book

Of the countless decisions Vlad Coric had to make as Biohaven’s CEO over the past seven years, there was one that felt particularly nerve-wracking: Instead of selling to a Big Pharma, the company decided it would commercialize its migraine drug itself.

“I remember some investors yelling and pounding on the table like, you can’t do this. What are you thinking? You’re going to get crushed by AbbVie,” he recalled.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er de­buts Pre­vnar 20 TV ads; Lil­ly gets first FDA 2022 pro­mo slap down let­ter

Pfizer debuted its first TV ad for its Prevnar 20 next-generation pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. In the 60-second spot, several people (actor portrayals) with their ages listed as 65 or older are shown walking into a clinic as they turn to say they’re getting vaccinated with Prevnar 20 because they’re at risk.

The update to Pfizer’s blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine was approved in June, and as its name suggests is a vaccine for 20 serotypes — the original 13 plus seven more that cause pneumococcal disease. Pfizer used to spend heavily on TV ads to promote Prevnar 13 in 2018 and 2019 but cut back its TV budgets in the past two fall and winter seasonal spending cycles. Prevnar had been Pfizer’s top-selling drug, notching sales of just under $6 billion in 2020, and was the world’s top-selling vaccine before the Covid-19 vaccines came to market last year.

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A new can­cer im­munother­a­py brings cau­tious hope for a field long await­ing the next big break­through

Bob Seibert sat silent across from his daughter at their favorite Spanish restaurant near his home in Charleston County, SC, their paella growing cold as he read through all the places in his body doctors found tumors.

He had texted his wife, a pediatric intensive care nurse, when he got the alert that his online chart was ready. Although he saw immediately it was bad, many of the terms — peritoneal, right iliac — were inscrutable. But she was five hours downstate, at a loud group dinner the night before another daughter’s cheer competition.

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Brian Thomas, Metagenomi CEO

Gen 2: Berke­ley spin­out lands $175M megaround to keep it on the cut­ting edge of the boom­ing gene-edit­ing field

The big bucks keep pumping into the gene-editing field.

This morning Metagenomi, allied with one of the biggest names in the mRNA field with a company DNA that includes the ubiquitous Jennifer Doudna, is showing off a $175 million B round that will pay for a rapid swelling of its staff in pursuit of some of the cutting-edge tech that keeps this field in the spotlight. And they’re aligning themselves with some major industry players with an eye on the clinic while getting behind some startups to help expand the work into new fields.

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Roy Baynes, Merck

FDA bats back Mer­ck’s ‘pipeline in a prod­uct,’ de­mands more ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta

Despite some heavy blowback from analysts, Merck execs maintained an upbeat attitude about the market potential of its chronic cough drug gefapixant. But the confidence may be fading somewhat today as Merck puts out news that the FDA is handing back its application with a CRL.

Dubbed by Merck’s development chief Roy Baynes as a “pipeline in a product” with a variety of potential uses, Merck had fielded positive late-stage data demonstrating the drug’s ability to combat chronic cough. The drug dramatically reduced chronic cough in Phase III, but so did placebo, leaving Merck’s research team with a marginal success on the p-value side of the equation.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Opin­ion: Flori­da is so mAb crazy, Ron De­San­tis wants to use mAbs that don't work

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying so hard to politicize the FDA and demonize the federal government that he entered into an alternate universe on Monday evening in describing a recent FDA action to restrict the use of two monoclonal antibody, or mAb, treatments for Covid-19 that don’t work against Omicron.

Without further ado, let’s break down his statement from last night, line by line, adjective by adjective.

Not cheap­er by the dozen: Bris­tol My­ers be­comes the 12th phar­ma com­pa­ny to re­strict 340B sales

Bristol Myers Squibb recently joined 11 of its peer pharma companies in limiting how many contract pharmacies can access certain drugs discounted by a federal program known as 340B.

Bristol Myers is just the latest in a series of high-profile pharma companies moving in their own direction as the Biden administration’s Health Resources and Services Administration struggles to rein in the drug discount program for the neediest Americans.

Joaquin Duato, J&J CEO (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

New J&J CEO Joaquin Du­a­to promis­es an ag­gres­sive M&A hunt in quest to grow phar­ma sales

Joaquin Duato stepped away from the sideline and directly into the spotlight on Tuesday, delivering his first quarterly review for J&J as its newly-tapped CEO after an 11-year run in senior posts. And he had some mixed financial news to deliver today while laying claim to a string of blockbuster drugs in the making and outlining an appetite for small and medium-sized M&A deals.

Duato also didn’t exactly shun large buyouts when asked about the future of the company’s medtech business — where they look to be in either the top or number 2 position in every segment they’re in — even though the bar for getting those deals done is so much higher.

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