Brent Saunders (Richard Drew, AP Images)

Brent Saun­ders rides $400M wave to the top of the SPAC boom

Brent Saun­ders’ de­ci­sion to join the SPAC gold rush ap­pears to have paid off nice­ly, al­beit not quite as nice­ly as he and his for­mer Al­ler­gan col­leagues had hoped.

Saun­ders’ spe­cial pur­pose ac­qui­si­tion com­pa­ny Ves­per Health­care Ac­qui­si­tion raised $400 mil­lion, sell­ing 40 mil­lion shares at 10 bucks a pop. That’s a bit short of the $460 mil­lion he and for­mer Al­ler­gan ex­ec Man­isha Narasimhan had ini­tial­ly sten­ciled in as the max­i­mum po­ten­tial of­fer­ing, but it still leaves one of phar­ma’s most fa­mous — and oc­ca­sion­al­ly no­to­ri­ous — wheel­ers and deal­ers with one of the largest hauls for a life sci­ence shell com­pa­ny yet, eclips­ing the $385 mil­lion Cas­din Cap­i­tal and Corvex Man­age­ment raised ear­ly this month.

Saun­ders will now have two years to find a new home for all that cash, look­ing in a hand­ful of fa­mil­iar ar­eas: med­ical aes­thet­ics, eye care, longevi­ty and well­ness.

Al­though the small hand­ful of life sci­ence SPACs to suc­cess­ful­ly merge with pri­vate com­pa­nies have large­ly been small­er, sev­er­al al­so came with ad­di­tion­al ex­ter­nal fund­ing to boost the over­all val­ue of the deal. Cerev­el, for in­stance, an­nounced they would go pub­lic ear­li­er this year on a deal that saw them merge with Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors’ $150 mil­lion SPAC and raise $445 mil­lion in a con­cur­rent pri­vate round.

Still, when Saun­ders first filed for the SPAC, one life sci­ences in­vestor told End­points News that it could trans­late in­to a com­pa­ny worth $1.5 bil­lion to $2 bil­lion — or in the range of what Re­lay Ther­a­peu­tics, the biggest biotech IPO in a year full of big biotech IPOs, was worth on its de­but.

And Saun­ders plans to own a de­cent chunk of the even­tu­al com­pa­ny; the S-1 not­ed he would re­tain 20% of the SPAC post-of­fer­ing.

So far, this marks just Saun­ders’ sec­ond pub­lic move since he avoid­ed a spot on Ab­b­Vie’s board post-buy­out. He al­so joined Bridge­Bio’s board, help­ing Neil Ku­mar steer an um­brel­la of com­pa­nies try­ing to rein­vent biotech.

For a man who very re­cent­ly had the work­ing hours of a Big Phar­ma CEO, that pre­sum­ably leaves room on his plate for more.

The top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.