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Tim Mayleben, Esperion CEO

Es­pe­ri­on's strug­gling-to-mar­ket, would-be block­buster finds fresh in­fu­sion of cash

A year after winning approval for their heart disease pill, Esperion is still struggling to sell it.

Burned by a mid-pandemic launch, the Ann Arbor, MI-based biotech pocketed just $12.1 million last year on a drug they believed would one day be a blockbuster. Analysts expect a boost in Q1 but not a significant one — $11 to $12 million — and not enough to make their long-term balance sheet look particularly more attractive.

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Tim Harkness, Unchained Labs CEO

The Car­lyle Group shells out $435M for con­trol­ling stake in vac­cine, gene ther­a­py ser­vices com­pa­ny

The Carlyle Group has put a target on life sciences in recent years, looking for opportunities to take controlling stakes in promising firms. After shelling out nearly half-a-billion dollars last year on a one-fifth stake in an Indian CDMO, the DC investors have their eyes set on a company specializing in vaccine and gene therapy services.

Carlyle shelled out $435 million to acquire more than 90% of Unchained Labs, a six-year-old California-based firm, from Danish asset manager Novo Holdings and VC firms TPG Biotech and Canaan Partners.

Noubar Afeyan (Sebastien Micke/Paris Match/Contour by Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: As Mod­er­na rose, Flag­ship cashed in for $1.4B — with a lot more wealth still re­main­ing

For nearly a decade, Flagship poured record-setting levels of cash into Moderna, even as they faced setbacks on early programs and skeptics wondered whether the company’s science could ever match its hype.

Now that the science has delivered, Flagship is cashing in.

Over the last 13 months, since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, Flagship has sold off Moderna shares worth $1.4 billion. The sales, first reported by Forbes, came as the Cambridge biotech’s shares soared from just under $20 per share on Jan. 3, 2020, to $169.50 when markets opened Thursday.

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Paul Wotton, Obsidian CEO

Ver­tex adds a new gene edit­ing part­ner, pay­ing Ob­sid­i­an $75M for con­trol­lable CRISPR sys­tem

When Paul Wotton became CEO of Obsidian Therapeutics two years ago, he asked his team to explore where they could apply the company’s technology beyond cancer.

Launched by Michael Gilman in 2017, the GV-backed company had been working on a way of controlling cell therapies after they’re administered to a patient, allowing doctors to modulate the potency of CAR-T and other drugs as you might volume on a television set. Wotton wanted to them look beyond cancer, into areas such as gene editing.

Jeff Leiden (L) and Samarth Kulkarni

UP­DAT­ED: Ver­tex pays CRISPR $900M to take con­trol of sick­le cell part­ner­ship, bet­ting they can beat blue­bird -- and re­new­ing an­a­lyst­s' skep­ti­cism

When Vertex chairman Jeffrey Leiden and CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Samarth Kulkarni got on the call for the first meeting of the year, the tenor was different than in the dozens of conversations the two had had since they first teamed back in 2015.

Vertex and CRISPR had just shown curative results in ten patients for their gene therapy for sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia. Meanwhile, their main rival in the field, bluebird bio, had suffered the latest in a string of manufacturing setbacks, pushing back their timeline by a year.

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James Garner, Kazia CEO (PR Newswire)

Kazia swipes an ex-Sanofi mol­e­cule for £1M up­front as they look to repli­cate their Genen­tech snag

Kazia has spent most of its young life trying to develop a single Genentech castoff it swiped for $5 million into a brain cancer drug. Now, with that molecule in a pivotal trial, the Aussie biotech is adding another old Big Pharma asset to its reserves.

Kazia announced Monday they in-licensed a small molecule called EVT801 from Evotec for a nominal upfront fee – $1.4 million — and $428 million in potential milestones. The company said they plan to launch a Phase I trial for the drug, a new VEGFR inhibitor, later this year.

Q1: A flood of in­vestor cash drove biotech's num­bers to new record highs, and the tor­rent of cash is mov­ing up­stream fast

If you thought biotech was booming last year, wait until you get a load of the numbers from Q1 2021.

On virtually every level, with one exception, the money engine was working around the clock in the first 3 months of this year. Venture capital has reached such a fever peak that the average B round now weighs in at an average mega-weight value of $100 million. The money flow is also finding its way to the mouth of the R&D river, where discovery work now merits the big bucks instead of cautionary seed funds.

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As­traZeneca-Alex­ion merg­er slides through FTC re­view af­ter sup­posed M&A crack­down pos­es no bar­ri­ers

The AstraZeneca-Alexion megamerger received a good sign Friday, despite warning signs of the tides turning against large M&A pharma deals.

US regulators at the FTC have cleared the acquisition for approval, AstraZeneca announced, all but signing off on the deal to go through once it officially closes in the third quarter. AstraZeneca originally said it was planning to buy out Alexion back in December for $39 billion.

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Sanjiv Patel, Relay CEO

In one of their first ever ac­qui­si­tions, Re­lay bets $85M cash on a new AI-based screen­ing ap­proach

Although they’ve never been short for cash, Relay Therapeutics hasn’t been one for acquisitions in its 5-year history, focusing instead on developing its own tools to study how proteins move and advancing molecules off those insights.

On Friday, though, the Third Rock-spun biotech plunked down $85 million in cash and another $185 million in milestones to acquire the small, two-year-old, Google-partnered machine learning company ZebiAI. The deal will allow Relay to add a critical new technology to its early-stage discovery tools now that, with three candidates in the clinic, they’ve shown those tools can pay off, said CEO Sanjiv Patel.

UP­DAT­ED: An­oth­er big CRO deal has land­ed as Ther­mo Fish­er ac­quires PPD for $17.4B

Consolidation among big CRO players is continuing to churn.

Following a Wednesday afternoon report from the Wall Street Journal saying a deal was close, Thermo Fisher has announced plans to acquire PPD for $17.4 billion. WSJ had reported that the parties could wrap up an agreement as soon as this week. It’s the second CRO M&A deal in as many months, following the Icon-PRA Health Sciences deal in late February.