Biotech SPAC takes IPO goal down a notch; Africa’s top health agency warns against monkeypox vaccine hoarding
A blank check SPAC was gunning to raise $100 million when it filed an S-1 in April. Now, it has set its sights a little bit lower.
Biotech Group Acquisition Corp announced Thursday that instead of offering 10 million units for $10 a piece, it is now planning on offering only 7.5 million shares at that price, which would net the company $75 million. Each unit contains one share of common stock and one warrant, exercisable at $11.50.
The SPAC, founded earlier this year, is led by Melody Shi, who is joined by Manu Ohri, the CFO of I/O oncology biotech GT Biopharma. While the SPAC has not explicitly listed what company it wants to merge with, it noted in an SEC filing that it is looking at the biotechnology sector in North America and the Asia-Pacific region outside of certain Asian markets such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol $BGACU. — Paul Schloesser
Africa’s top health agency warns against monkeypox vaccine hoarding by wealthier nations
A director at one of Africa’s top public health agencies has issued a warning about any hoarding of smallpox vaccines that can be used to treat the current monkeypox outbreak.
Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the deputy director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday that he hoped vaccine hoarding, as seen by wealthier nations during the Covid-19 pandemic, would not be repeated with the current monkeypox outbreak, according to a report from Reuters,
Monkeypox, an endemic disease in western Africa and the Congo River Basin, has caused alarm as 200 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus were detected in at least 19 countries since early May, mostly in Europe and some in North America, causing several nations to start making large purchases of smallpox vaccine from manufacturers.
However, Ogwell Ouma is adamant that the vaccines should not be hoarded and should instead go to those who need them on an equitable basis, not just to nations that can afford them outright.
“We know how to deal with it… and we are happy to share that knowledge, the experience, and the skills we have built over time with countries that are seeing monkeypox now,” Ogwell Ouma said in a news conference. — Tyler Patchen
J&J’s BCMA CAR-T lands conditional OK in Europe
Back in 2017, Legend Biotech and J&J’s Janssen entered an exclusive license and collaboration deal for clita-cel, a BCMA CAR-T therapy to treat patients with relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma (RRMM) who received at least three prior therapies, such as a proteasome inhibitor (PI), an immunomodulatory agent and an anti-CD38 antibody, and demonstrated disease progression on the last therapy.
And as of early Thursday morning, the European Commission gave Legend the thumbs up in the form of a conditional marketing authorization. This conditional authorization follows FDA approval granted earlier this year, setting up a showdown with the only other BCMA CAR-T approved in the US, Bristol Myers and bluebird’s Abecma.
“The approval of Carvykti by the European Commission marks Legend’s first approval in the region and is a significant milestone,” Legend Biotech CEO Ying Huang said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Janssen to bring this new option to patients across Europe.” — Paul Schloesser
Reata Pharmaceuticals wins priority review for Friedrich’s ataxia drug candidate
Texas biotech Reata Pharmaceuticals announced Thursday that the FDA granted priority review for the biotech’s NDA on omaveloxolone.
The drug candidate, which targets Nrf2, a regulator of antioxidant and cellular protective genes, has been tested for use in patients with Friedrich’s ataxia, a genetic, progressive, neurodegenerative movement disorder. Reata said in a statement the FDA indicated that at this time, it has not identified any potential review issues. Omaveloxolone previously received Fast Track Designation last November, and then Rare Pediatric Disease Designation earlier this month.
The FDA gave a PDUFA date of November 30, and according to Reata, the federal regulator is planning on holding an adcomm to discuss the application.
Reata CEO Warren Huff said in a statement the biotech is pleased with the decision for Priority Review, adding that “We look forward to working with the FDA during the review process, and if approved, we are looking forward to a commercial launch in early 2023.” — Paul Schloesser
Sosei Heptares expands its UK-based R&D operations
The GPCR specialists at Sosei Heptares are expanding their operation in the United Kingdom with a second site within Granta Park, in Cambridge, to The Cori Building, previously occupied by Cancer Research UK.
According to the company, the requirement for additional R&D space is being driven by its strategy to become a multi-program, early clinical stage business, and as part of this strategy, Sosei Heptares is continuing to invest in enhancing its discovery platform and expanding its R&D capabilities to support the advancement of its in-house pipeline and partnered programs. The existing facility will undergo remodeling to convert it exclusively to laboratory space.
The new facilities in The Cori Building will become home to Sosei’s expanded translational medicine team. CEO Chris Cargill said in a statement that the company’s R&D team has expanded to 200 members, up from 130 when the company first moved to Granta Park in 2018. — Tyler Patchen