Cel­gene scoops up fresh­man au­toim­mune start­up Delinia in $775M buy­out

Four months ago, At­las Ven­ture part­ner Saurabh Sa­ha set up shop at the new­born Delinia with a pre­clin­i­cal au­toim­mune drug, $35 mil­lion in start­up cash and a skele­ton crew. To­day, Cel­gene says it struck a deal to buy the start­up for $300 mil­lion up front and up to $475 mil­lion in mile­stones, adding a new drug for its au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­tion pipeline.

Cel­gene is get­ting a pre­clin­i­cal lead pro­gram in the deal, which cen­ters pri­mar­i­ly on DEL106, as well as re­lat­ed sec­ond gen­er­a­tion pro­grams. DEL106 is an IL-2 mutein Fc fu­sion pro­tein de­signed to up­reg­u­late reg­u­la­to­ry T cells (Tregs), im­mune cells that are crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing nat­ur­al self-tol­er­ance — and avoid­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases.

There’s a long list of dis­eases trig­gered when the bal­ance of Tregs and T ef­fec­tor cells is dis­rupt­ed and the im­mune sys­tem starts to at­tack healthy tis­sue. By ex­pand­ing Tregs, amp­ing up ac­tiv­i­ty, Sa­ha set out be­liev­ing that Delinia’s drug can re­store im­mune tol­er­ance and home­osta­sis, stop­ping dis­eases like lu­pus, Type 1 dis­eases and fi­brot­ic dis­eases like scle­ro­der­ma.

The deal clear­ly comes with a big cash pay­out to At­las — which has nev­er been re­luc­tant to take a good mul­ti­ple for ear­ly-stage as­sets like this — as well as Sofinno­va Part­ners, the Paris-based VC group that co-led the round. And there’s al­so plen­ty of up­side left if the tech works as hoped. For Cel­gene, it’s yet an­oth­er ac­qui­si­tion for a deal team that has been strik­ing a broad range of pacts over the years.

In a blog post this morn­ing, At­las’ Bruce Booth wrote:

Over the past decade, Cel­gene has built an im­pres­sive I&I port­fo­lio of both in­ter­nal­ly-dis­cov­ered and ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced pro­grams. Ote­zla (apremi­last) is their flag­ship I&I med­i­cine to­day (fastest pso­ri­a­sis drug to hit $1B in sales from launch) and was dis­cov­ered at Cel­gene; be­hind it are sev­er­al ad­di­tion­al home­grown pro­grams ear­li­er in de­vel­op­ment (e.g., im­munomod­u­la­tor CC-220 and an­ti-fi­brot­ic CC-90001). Cel­gene’s I&I pipeline al­so has sev­er­al high pro­file ex­ter­nal­ly-sourced ther­a­pies, in­clud­ing mon­gersen/GED-0301 (via a li­cense with No­gra Phar­ma) and ozan­i­mod (via ac­qui­si­tion of Re­cep­tos). They’ve al­so been at the fore­front of chang­ing the au­toim­mune treat­ment par­a­digm, such as with the re­cent deal with Anokion on tol­er­ance in­duc­tion. The Delinia pro­grams fit nice­ly in­to this grow­ing port­fo­lio, and com­ple­ment sev­er­al of these I&I ap­proach­es – which was a big dri­ver for Cel­gene’s over­all in­ter­est in the sto­ry.

Delinia ex­ecs Sa­ha and Jeff Tong, chair­man, told me in a fol­low-up in­ter­view that the ear­ly buy­out came up as they be­gan to strike up in­tro­duc­to­ry con­tacts aimed at es­tab­lish­ing some longterm talks with key play­ers in the field. Their sto­ry of a new tech­nol­o­gy that could have a pro­found im­pact on au­toim­mune dis­eases — even though it was still pre­clin­i­cal — at­tract­ed keen at­ten­tion from sev­er­al play­ers, in­clud­ing an un­ex­pect­ed in­bound call from one com­pa­ny that helped get the bid­ding go­ing for far more than what At­las had in­vest­ed in seed and ear­ly A cash.

“It was not a for­mal auc­tion,” Tong tells me, “but there was a very com­pet­i­tive lev­el of in­ter­est.”

Not yet de­cid­ed is what hap­pens with the Delinia team. Sa­ha says those dis­cus­sions are con­tin­u­ing with Cel­gene.

Co-founder and the new chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer at Delinia, Jef­frey Greve, is cred­it­ed with much of the dis­cov­ery work for their cy­tokine. Com­pa­ny co-founder Michael Rosen­blum is the as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at the UCSF School of Med­i­cine.

“Delinia is at the fore­front of ad­vanc­ing new ap­proach­es to treat­ing pa­tients with se­vere and de­bil­i­tat­ing au­toim­mune dis­eases,” said Ru­pert Vessey, FR­CP DPhil, Pres­i­dent of Re­search and Ear­ly De­vel­op­ment for Cel­gene Cor­po­ra­tion. “We look for­ward to pro­gress­ing DEL106 in­to the clin­ic next year.”

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.

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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.

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Top an­a­lyst finds a sil­ver lin­ing in Ab­b­Vie’s $63B Al­ler­gan buy­out — 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 a 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.

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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.

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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.

Sanofi/Re­gen­eron mus­cle ahead of a ri­val No­var­tis/Roche team, win first ap­proval in key rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis field

Re­gen­eron and their part­ners at Sanofi have beat the No­var­tis/Roche team to the punch on an­oth­er key in­di­ca­tion for their block­buster an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug Dupix­ent. The drug team scored an ac­cel­er­at­ed FDA ap­proval for chron­ic rhi­nos­i­nusi­tis with nasal polyps, mak­ing this the first such NDA for the field.

An­a­lysts have been watch­ing this race for awhile now, as Sanofi/Re­gen­eron won a snap pri­or­i­ty re­view for what is now their third dis­ease in­di­ca­tion for this treat­ment. And they’re not near­ly done, build­ing up hopes for a ma­jor fran­chise.

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.

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Eye­ing a $500M peak sales pot, Almi­rall dou­bles down on le­brik­izum­ab as Der­mi­ra lines up PhI­II

With eyes on what it be­lieves is a $500 mil­lion peak rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ty in Eu­rope, Barcelona-based Almi­rall has stepped up with $50 mil­lion in cash to take up the op­tion on Der­mi­ra’s IL-13 an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug le­brik­izum­ab just ahead of the start of Phase III. And there’s an­oth­er $30 mil­lion due as the late-stage pro­gram gets geared up.

That shouldn’t be long from now, as Der­mi­ra ex­pects to be­gin the late-stage tri­al work for atopic der­mati­tis be­fore the end of this year as it fol­lows a trail that ex­ecs in­sist leads to block­buster re­turns. Along the way, they’ll need to take on the 600-pound go­ril­la in atopic der­mati­tis: the IL-13/IL-4 drug Dupix­ent, from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. Ri­vals al­so in­clude Leo Phar­ma, in its piv­otal with tralok­izum­ab, and Anap­tys­Bio in the hunt with a mid-stage pro­gram for etokimab, pre­vi­ous­ly re­ferred to as ANB020.

Two biotech uni­corns swell pro­posed IPOs, eye­ing a $600M-plus wind­fall

We’ve been wait­ing for the ar­rival of Bridge­Bio’s IPO to top off the wave of new biotech of­fer­ings sweep­ing through Nas­daq at the end of H1. And now we learn that it’s been sub­stan­tial­ly up­sized.

Ini­tial­ly pen­ciled in at a uni­corn-sized $225 mil­lion, the KKR-backed biotech has spiked that to the neigh­bor­hood of $300 mil­lion, look­ing to sell 20 mil­lion shares at $14 to $16 each. That’s an added 5 mil­lion shares, re­ports Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal, which fig­ures the pro­posed mar­ket val­u­a­tion for Neil Ku­mar’s com­pa­ny at $1.8 bil­lion.