Bil­lion­aire Bertarel­li's Way­point steers al­ler­gy drug­mak­er Stal­ler­genes Greer pri­vate in $832M buy­out deal

The flur­ry of 2019 M&A ac­tiv­i­ty is show­ing no signs of cool­ing. Al­ler­gy im­munother­a­py mak­er Stal­ler­genes Greer has agreed to be ac­quired by the Way­point/Ares Life Sci­ences ve­hi­cle of Swiss bil­lion­aire and for­mer Serono chief Ernesto Bertarel­li for €730.1 mil­lion (about $832 mil­lion) in a deal de­vised to take the French com­pa­ny pri­vate.

Ernesto Bertarel­li

Way­point has been the biggest share­hold­er of Stal­ler­genes since it was es­tab­lished in 2015, and cur­rent­ly holds a 83.9% stake.

“(I)n light of Stal­ler­genes Greer’s lim­it­ed pub­lic float, Way­point has con­clud­ed that the ben­e­fits of hav­ing shares pub­licly list­ed are lim­it­ed, and the costs of main­tain­ing such list­ing are not jus­ti­fied for share­hold­ers,” the Bertarel­li firm said in a state­ment.

“(D)e-list­ing shares from the reg­u­lat­ed mar­ket of Eu­ronext Paris would al­low Stal­ler­genes Greer’s man­age­ment team to fo­cus on the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of Stal­ler­genes Greer’s busi­ness ob­jec­tives with­out the dis­trac­tion of list­ing oblig­a­tions.”

The delist­ing of Stal­ler­genes Greer — which cur­rent­ly trades on Eu­ronext Paris un­der the tick­er sym­bol $STA­GR — is im­per­a­tive for the com­pa­ny as it con­tin­ues to re­cov­er from the “dif­fi­cult op­er­a­tional chal­lenges of re­cent years,” Way­point added.

On Thurs­day, Stal­ler­genes re­port­ed 2018 net prof­it of €12.8 mil­lion. The pre­ced­ing year, the com­pa­ny had stacked up a net loss of €9.9 mil­lion.

Way­point has of­fered €37 per Stal­ler­genes share, a near­ly 43% pre­mi­um to the lat­ter’s Wednes­day clos­ing price of €25.90. The deal comes months af­ter Stal­ler­genes’ house dust mite im­munother­a­py cleared a piv­otal stage test; the biotech al­ready sells an al­ler­gic rhini­tis ther­a­py called Oralair.

2019 is shap­ing up to be an ex­plo­sive year for bio­phar­ma M&A. A num­ber of deals — big and small — are in the off­ing, in­clud­ing Bris­tol-My­ers’ planned $74 bil­lion takeover of Cel­gene, Lil­ly’s $8 bil­lion buy­out of Loxo On­col­o­gy, J&J’s $3.4 bil­lion deal for Au­ris Health and Roche’s $4.3 bil­lion bet on Spark.

The Bertarel­li name is close­ly as­so­ci­at­ed with Serono, which grew over the course of three gen­er­a­tions of the fam­i­ly. Ernesto in­her­it­ed the Gene­va-based drug man­u­fac­tur­er along­side his sis­ter, Dona, and went on to lead the com­pa­ny in 1996. More than a decade lat­er in 2007, Serono was sold to Ger­many’s Mer­ck KGaA. Bertarel­li’s Way­point Cap­i­tal man­ages a large group of as­set man­age­ment, re­al es­tate and health­care in­vest­ment busi­ness­es that he found­ed and chairs — in­clud­ing life sci­ences fund Gur­net Point Cap­i­tal and drug de­vel­op­er Boston Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. He al­so found­ed the yacht­ing team Al­inghi that twice won the Amer­i­ca’s Cup.

George Yancopoulos (Regeneron)

Re­gen­eron co-founder George Yan­copou­los of­fers a com­bat­ive de­fense of the po­lice at a high school com­mence­ment. It didn’t go well

Typically, the commencement speech at Yorktown Central School District in Westchester — like most high schools — is an opportunity to encourage students to face the future with confidence and hope. Regeneron president and co-founder George Yancopoulos, though, went a different route.

In a fiery speech, the outspoken billionaire defended the police against the “prejudice and bias against law enforcement” that has erupted around the country in street protests from coast to coast. And for many who attended the commencement, Yancopoulos struck the wrong note at the wrong time, especially when he combatively challenged someone for interrupting his speech with a honk for “another act of cowardness.”

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Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk gestures to the audience after being recognized by President Trump following the successful launch of a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center. (via Getty Images)

Tes­la chief Elon Musk teams up with Covid-19 play­er Cure­Vac to build 'R­NA mi­cro­fac­to­ries'

Elon Musk has joined the global tech crusade now underway to revolutionize vaccine manufacturing — now aimed at delivering billions of doses of a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19. And he’s cutting right to the front.

In a late-night tweet Wednesday, the Tesla chief announced:

Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others

That’s not a lot to go on. But the tweet comes a year after Tesla’s German division in Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent on a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription, a method for RNA in vitro transcription, a module for transcribing DNA into RNA and an automated apparatus for RNA manufacturing.” CureVac, in the meantime, has discussed a variety of plans to build microfactories that can speed up the whole process for a global supply chain.

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No­var­tis los­es biosim­i­lar ap­peal as court up­holds a 31-year mo­nop­oly by Am­gen's En­brel

A new court ruling has strengthened Amgen’s grip on the IP estate around Enbrel, keeping biosimilars of the autoimmune and inflammatory drug at bay until 2029.

Novartis, the patent challenger, isn’t throwing in the towel yet. In a statement noting the failed appeal, its generics division Sandoz noted its reviewing options, “including potential appeal to US Supreme Court.”

It’s been almost four years since the FDA approved Erelzi, Sandoz’s copycat version of Enbrel. While sales of the Pfizer-partnered drug in the US — the market Amgen is in charge of — have dipped slightly during that time, it remains a solid megablockbuster with 2019 revenue slightly above $5 billion.

Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? A Bay Area biotech grabs a mega-round on the road to a piv­otal neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion pro­gram

South San Francisco-based Annexon has added $100 million to its cash reserves, along with a new roster of marquee investors backing their play on the classical complement pathway involved in neurodegeneration. And that may well fit the profile for an IPO — though right now everything seems to be working on that score.

Eighteen months after Bain and their syndicate partners put up $75 million to fuel clinical work, Annexon is back at the trough. And this time they’re adding Redmile Group for the lead role, with supporting investments from these new arrivals: BlackRock, Deerfield Management Company, Eventide Asset Management, Farallon Capital Management, Janus Henderson Investors and Logos Capital.

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Elias Zerhouni (Photo by Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty Images)

Elias Zer­houni dis­cuss­es ‘am­a­teur hour’ in DC, the de­struc­tion of in­fec­tious dis­ease R&D and how we need to prep for the next time

Elias Zerhouni favors blunt talk, and in a recent discussion with NPR, the ex-Sanofi R&D and ex-NIH chief had some tough points to make regarding the pandemic response.

Rather than interpret them, I thought it would be best to provide snippets straight from the interview.

On the Trump administration response:

It was basically amateur hour. There is no central concept of operations for preparedness, for pandemics, period. This administration doesn’t want to or has no concept of what it takes to protect the American people and the world because it is codependent. You can’t close your borders and say, “OK, we’re going to be safe.” You’re not going to be able to do that in this world. So it’s a lack of vision, basically just a lack of understanding, of what it takes to protect the American people.

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An ex­pe­ri­enced biotech is stitched to­geth­er from transpa­cif­ic parts, with 265 staffers and a fo­cus on ‘new bi­ol­o­gy’

Over the past few years, different teams at a pair of US-based biotechs and in labs in Japan have labored to piece together a group of cancer drug programs, sharing a single corporate umbrella with research colleagues in Japan. But now their far-flung operations have been knit together into a single unit, creating a pipeline with 10 cancer drug development programs — going from early-stage right into Phase III — and a host of discovery projects managed by a collective staff of some 265 people.

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Pfiz­er shares surge on pos­i­tive im­pact of their mR­NA Covid-19 vac­cine — part­nered with BioN­Tech — in an ear­ly-stage study

Pfizer and their partners at the mRNA specialist BioNTech have published the first glimpse of biomarker data from an early-stage study spotlighting the “robust immunogenicity” triggered by their Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the leaders in the race to vanquish the global pandemic.

Researchers selected 45 healthy volunteers 18-55 years of age for the study. They were randomized to receive 2 doses, separated by 21 days, of 10 µg, 30 µg, or 100 µg of BNT162b1, “a lipid nanoparticle-formulated, nucleoside-modified, mRNA vaccine that encodes trimerized SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein RBD.” Their responses were compared against the effect of a natural, presumably protective defense offered by a regular infection.

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Sec­ond death trig­gers hold on Astel­las' $3B gene ther­a­py biotech's lead pro­gram, rais­ing fresh con­cerns about AAV

Seven months after Astellas shelled out $3 billion to acquire the gene therapy player Audentes, the biotech company’s lead program has been put on hold following the death of 2 patients taking a high dose of their treatment. And there was another serious adverse event recorded in the study as well, with a total of 3 “older” patients in the study affected.

The incidents are derailing plans to file for a near-term approval, which had been expected right about now.

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FDA ap­provals roundup: Zo­genix's Fin­tepla, Ul­tragenyx's Do­jolvi, and Genen­tech's Ph­es­go

A weekly update on new drug approvals and indications from the FDA:

New approvals

Fintepla gets the go-ahead for Dravet syndrome

Zogenix’s Fintepla (fenfluramine) has been approved for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome in patients aged 2 years or older. The syndrome is a rare, life-threatening form of epilepsy.

The approval was based on findings from two clinical studies in 202 participants aged between 2 and 18 years, in which the change from baseline in frequency of convulsive seizures was measured. In both studies, children who received Fintepla had significantly greater reductions in the frequency of convulsive seizures, compared with those receiving placebo. The reductions were seen within 3-4 weeks of therapy initiation and remained generally consistent during the treatment periods of 14-15 weeks.