BioN­Tech rais­es mam­moth $270M A round, near­ing $1B mark as in­vestors con­tin­ue a love af­fair with mR­NA

Of all the star­tups on both con­ti­nents over the past decade, few could ri­val the growth of BioN­Tech af­ter it got start­ed with seed cash back in 2008. The mR­NA com­pa­ny has fund­ed much of its rapid ex­pan­sion with part­ner­ship cash, reach­ing more than 700 staffers at the end of 2017 with the con­sid­er­able sup­port of some big al­liances with the likes of Genen­tech and Sanofi and Gen­mab.

Un­til to­day.

This morn­ing the Mainz, Ger­man-based biotech took the wraps off a mega-raise of $270 mil­lion — an ‘A’ round de­signed to com­plete the rapid ramp-up of its con­sid­er­able man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions as it looks to ad­vance an ear­ly-stage per­son­al­ized mR­NA can­cer vac­cine de­signed to mob the anti­gens of in­di­vid­ual pa­tients.

Add up all the cash from the seed mon­ey of­fered by the bil­lion­aire Strüng­mann broth­ers through col­lab­o­ra­tion cash, grants and so on, says COO Sean Marett, and the to­tal comes to about $950 mil­lion, near­ing a block­buster bil­lion. Even by US stan­dards, that’s huge. By Eu­ro­pean stan­dards, it’s al­most un­heard of for a pri­vate life sci­ences com­pa­ny, com­ing close to the $320 mil­lion record set by Im­muno­core in the UK in 2015.

The round high­lights one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever seen for biotech ven­ture in­vest­ing. By the end of Thurs­day, End­points News will have re­port­ed on more than $700 mil­lion in new biotech in­vest­ments an­nounced over a 72-hour pe­ri­od. Even for the week ahead of JP­Mor­gan, that’s ex­tra­or­di­nary.

The Red­mile Group led the round, joined by Janus Hen­der­son In­vestors, In­vus, Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pa­ny and sev­er­al Eu­ro­pean fam­i­ly of­fices. The Strüng­mann Fam­i­ly Of­fice — op­er­at­ed by iden­ti­cal twins Thomas and An­dreas Strüng­mann, who found­ed the big gener­ics com­pa­ny Hexal and sold it to No­var­tis ($NVS) for $7.5 bil­lion — al­so came back in to in­vest again.

Ugur Sahin

The fo­cus now is ex­pand­ing clin­i­cal work on new ther­a­peu­tic pro­grams, says the COO, where BioN­Tech — helmed by CEO Ugur Sahin — has been en­gaged as a 50/50 part­ner with Genen­tech and oth­er gi­ants.

The lat­est round in­di­cates just how much in­vestor in­ter­est there is in mR­NA, with con­sid­er­able en­thu­si­asm for a tech­nol­o­gy that’s still very much in its in­fan­cy — but promis­ing to move fast. A few months ago, for ex­am­ple, BioN­Tech boast­ed of its abil­i­ty to de­liv­er mR­NA en­cod­ing for any an­ti­body bis­pe­cif­ic, spurring cells to cre­ate an an­ti-can­cer ther­a­py that worked against an­i­mal tu­mors. And there’s been some en­cour­ag­ing ear­ly snap­shots of im­muno­log­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty.

Two oth­er com­pa­nies, Cure­Vac and Mod­er­na, have al­so gath­ered huge amounts of sup­port for their own work in mR­NA, al­so look­ing at can­cer vac­cines in par­tic­u­lar and siz­ing up their po­ten­tial in com­bi­na­tion with PD-1/L1 in­hibitors.

By the end of the year, says Marett, BioN­Tech will like­ly have close to 850 em­ploy­ees, with ex­pand­ed ca­pac­i­ty to make its can­cer vac­cine as well as a CAR-T for one pa­tient at a time.

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Top an­a­lyst of­fers a rare, up­beat in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ab­b­Vie’s $63B Al­ler­gan deal — but there’s a catch

Af­ter get­ting beat up on all sides from mar­ket ob­servers who don’t much care for the lat­est mega-deal to ar­rive in bio­phar­ma, at least one promi­nent an­a­lyst now is start­ing to like what he sees in the num­bers for Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan.

But it’s go­ing to take some en­cour­age­ment if Ab­b­Vie ex­ecs want it to last.

Ab­b­Vie’s mar­ket cap de­clined $20 bil­lion on Tues­day as the stock took at 17% hit dur­ing the day. And SVB Leerink’s Ge­of­frey Porges can see a dis­tinct out­line of an up­side af­ter re­view­ing the fun­da­men­tals of the deal.

Af­ter rais­ing $158M, this up­start's founders have star back­ers and plans to break new ground in gene ther­a­py

Back in 2014, Stephanie Tagliatela opted to take an early exit out of her PhD program after working in Mark Bear’s lab at MIT, where she specialized in the synaptic connections between neuronal cells in the brain. She never finished that PhD, but she and fellow MIT student Kartik Ramamoorthi — who was on the founding team at Voyager — came away with some ideas for a gene therapy startup.

Today, fully 5 years later, she and Ramamoorthi are taking the wraps off of a $104 million mega-round designed to take the cumulative work of their preclinical formative stage for Encoded Therapeutics into human studies. They’ve now raised $158 million since starting out in Illumina’s incubator in the Bay Area, and they believe they are firmly on track to do something unique in gene therapy.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

While Ako­rn works to re­vive its for­tunes, the FDA hits it with an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter

Ako­rn just can’t dig it­self out of its hole.

The spe­cial­ty gener­ic drug­mak­er has re­ceived yet an­oth­er warn­ing let­ter from the FDA this year. With­out dis­clos­ing any specifics, the Lake For­est, Illi­nois-based drug­mak­er on Wednes­day said the US reg­u­la­tor had is­sued the let­ter, cit­ing an in­spec­tion of its Som­er­set, New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty in Ju­ly and Au­gust of 2018. The com­pa­ny’s shares $AKRX dipped about 1.7% to $4.65 be­fore the bell.

Image: Chris Varma. Frontier

UP­DAT­ED: Chris Var­ma un­veils MP­M's lat­est start­up — eye­ing 'un­drug­gable' can­cer tar­gets and pow­ered by ma­chine learn­ing, $67M

Two years af­ter MPM Cap­i­tal en­list­ed Chris Var­ma on its busy on­col­o­gy team, the for­mer en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence is un­veil­ing his first ven­ture project out of his new stomp­ing grounds in the Bay Area: Fron­tier Med­i­cines.

For Var­ma, who’s al­so co-found­ed Blue­print Med­i­cines and built com­pa­nies at Third Rock and Flag­ship, this marks an­oth­er op­por­tu­ni­ty to ap­ply some cut­ting-edge sci­ence to “sev­er­al of the most im­por­tant and dif­fi­cult tar­gets in can­cer” — tar­gets that oth­ers have tried to tack­le with more clas­si­cal meth­ods and failed. The launch round comes in at $67 mil­lion, which should go some way in scaf­fold­ing a pre­clin­i­cal pipeline and push one or more as­sets in­to the clin­ic three years from now, he tells me.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three major buyouts announced: Takeda/Shire; Bristol-Myers/Celgene and now AbbVie/Allergan. And with this latest deal it’s increasingly clear that the sharp fall from grace suffered by high-profile players which have seen their share prices blasted has created an opening for the growth players in big pharma to up their game — in sharp contrast to the popular bolt-on deals that have been driving the growth strategy at Novartis, Merck, Roche and others.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 53,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The top 15 mega-deals in bio­phar­ma: Ab­b­Vie and Bris­tol-My­ers ac­qui­si­tions stir fresh de­bate over what's too big to buy

The debate over what’s too big to buy in biotech is back. A number of top analysts went right after AbbVie’s rationale for the Allergan deal today, just as Bristol-Myers Squibb stirred immediate debate over the worth and wisdom of acquiring Celgene.

To help provide some added context to this discussion, we asked DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar to look over the past decade of major M&A in biopharma to decipher the top 15 plays.

The new numbers, unadjusted for inflation, harken back to the days of the Pfizer-Wyeth buyout and Merck’s decision to absorb Schering-Plough — both triggered in 2009. The heat over those acquisitions made the big pharma mega-deal highly unpopular for most everyone — except Pfizer — as industry leaders swore off almost all but the handy bolt-on acquisition.

Until recently.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.