Chi­nook rais­es $106M in pri­vate place­ment as it pre­pares to close merg­er with Aduro

As Ver­sant-backed Chi­nook pre­pares to hit Nas­daq af­ter a merg­er with Aduro, the Van­cou­ver-based biotech has se­cured al­ter­na­tive fund­ing to an IPO.

Chi­nook raised $106 mil­lion in pri­vate place­ment fi­nanc­ing, the com­pa­ny said Tues­day, which is ex­pect­ed to close im­me­di­ate­ly be­fore the merg­er is com­plet­ed. Once that’s fin­ished, like­ly some­time be­fore the end of the year, Aduro will take on the Chi­nook name and trade un­der the tick­er $KD­NY.

Er­ic Dob­meier

CEO Er­ic Dob­meier said the com­pa­ny, which fo­cus­es pri­mar­i­ly on kid­ney dis­ease re­search, had orig­i­nal­ly been plan­ning a Se­ries B, but that changed when the op­por­tu­ni­ty to merge with Aduro came about.

“We did that deal with Aduro be­cause it got us an­oth­er pipeline pro­gram,” Dob­meier told End­points News. “It got us a lot of cap­i­tal as well as a lot of strong staff to help us ex­e­cute our plans. And af­ter the merg­er was an­nounced, we con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions with [po­ten­tial Se­ries B] in­vestors…they liked Chi­nook be­fore the merg­er, but they liked it even more af­ter we had an­oth­er as­set.”

New fund­ing was led by EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Or­biMed, Rock Springs Cap­i­tal, and Avid­i­ty Part­ners. Chi­nook’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors, Ver­sant, Ap­ple Tree and Sam­sara, al­so pur­chased $25 mil­lion in com­mon stock.

Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment comes al­most a year to the day af­ter Chi­nook came out of stealth from a Ver­sant dis­cov­ery en­gine with a $65 mil­lion Se­ries A. From Ver­sant’s point of view, the fo­cus on kid­ney dis­ease is a bet that Chi­nook can get in front ear­ly among oth­er new star­tups in the field.

The new fi­nanc­ing will go to­ward sev­er­al Chi­nook and old Aduro pro­grams. Chi­nook’s lead can­di­date atrasen­tan, which was in-li­censed from Ab­b­Vie to­ward the end of 2019, is cur­rent­ly in Phase II and Phase III tri­als for the treat­ment of IgA nephropa­thy and oth­er pri­ma­ry glomeru­lar dis­eases.

There is al­so an on­go­ing Phase Ib study for BION-1301, Aduro’s IgG4 mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body that blocks APRIL bind­ing to both the BC­MA and TACI re­cep­tors. This can­di­date was the pri­ma­ry rea­son Chi­nook went down the merg­er route, Dob­meier said.

“There are com­pa­nies that will do re­verse merg­ers in­to a shell com­pa­ny in or­der to go pub­lic like a SPAC,” Dob­meier said. “This is dif­fer­ent in the sense that there are re­al as­sets, there’s a pro­gram, there’s peo­ple and there’s quite a bit more cap­i­tal than you would nor­mal­ly see.”

Chi­nook’s side of the pipeline deals large­ly with kid­ney dis­ease re­search, with its CHK-336 can­di­date for ul­tra rare or­phan kid­ney dis­ease hav­ing reached the IND-en­abling stage. Some of Tues­day’s cap­i­tal will help launch a Phase I tri­al in that area as well as ad­vanc­ing re­search in Chi­nook’s oth­er pre­clin­i­cal kid­ney dis­ease can­di­dates.

Aduro’s de­ci­sion to merge with Chi­nook comes af­ter a long string of set­backs over the years. Its two pro­posed can­cer vac­cines, GVAX and CRS-207, both bust­ed a few years ago. That prompt­ed J&J to back out of a $1.2 bil­lion deal in late 2018, forc­ing the com­pa­ny to axe about a third of its staff at the be­gin­ning of 2019.

Lat­er that year, No­var­tis dumped Aduro’s STING drug af­ter clin­i­cal da­ta showed lit­tle to no ben­e­fit. The be­lea­guered biotech, which by that point was trad­ing in the pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter hit­ting $40 per share in 2015, was forced in­to an­oth­er round of lay­offs this past Jan­u­ary.

Oth­er new in­vestors in­clud­ed Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal, Al­ly Bridge Group, Monashee In­vest­ment Man­age­ment, North­leaf Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Janus Hen­der­son and Sphera Biotech.

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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Pascal Soriot (AP Images)

As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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Chi­na opens the door for biotech in­vestors in Hong Kong to buy Shang­hai stocks, and vice ver­sa

When Shanghai’s STAR board began opening its doors to biotech, it was considered not just a rival to Nasdaq but also the stock exchange in Hong Kong. Those perceptions may take an amicable turn as China expands a mutual access program with the city.

The changes mean investors in mainland China will be able to own Hong Kong biotech chapter stocks, while those in Hong Kong — a much more internationally connected group — would have access to those listed on STAR. In effect, it turns the Shanghai market into a globally accessible exchange overnight while also broadening a key source of revenue for HKEX.

Michelle Longmire, Medable CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Med­able gets $91M for vir­tu­al clin­i­cal tri­als, bring­ing to­tal raise to $136M

As biotechs look to get clinical studies back on track amid the pandemic, Medable returned to the venture well for the second time this year, bagging a $91 million Series C to build out its virtual trial platform.

The software provider recently launched three new apps for decentralizing clinical trials, and saw a 500% revenue spike this year. And it isn’t alone. Back in August, Science 37 secured a $40 million round for its virtual trial tech, with support from Novartis, Sanofi Ventures and Amgen. Patients and researchers are taking a liking to the online approach, suggesting regulators could allow it to become a new normal even after the pandemic is over.

Feng Tian, Ambrx CEO (Ambrx)

Af­ter 5 qui­et years, a for­mer Scripps spin­out rais­es $200M and an­nounces plans to try again at an IPO

The first time San Diego biotech Ambrx tried to go public in 2014, they failed and the company’s board switched to a radically different strategy: They sold themselves for an undisclosed amount to a syndicate of Chinese investors and pharma companies.

Now, after 5 quiet years, that syndicate has raised a mountain of cash and indicated they’ll soon make another bid to go public.

Earlier this month, Ambrx raised $200 million in what they billed as a crossover round financed by Fidelity, BlackRock, Cormorant Asset Management, HBM Healthcare Investments, Invus, Adage Capital Partners and Suvretta Capital Management. It’s the largest amount they’ve ever raised and, according to Crunchbase figures, more than doubles the total amount of VC capital collected since their launch 17 years ago.

Overnight for­tunes are be­ing made in biotech these days — and it's both en­cour­ag­ing and more than a lit­tle bit scary

Just to complete the last leg of a running story I’ve been tracking for a few weeks, Olema $OLMA has come through its IPO from the Thursday night pricing at $19 a share with a market cap just north of $2 billion.

That leaves newly-named CEO Sean Bohen holding a batch of 1,110,896 shares with a strike price of $4.82. As of Tuesday morning, the stock is now trading at $53.40, giving him a portfolio value of $53.4 million. Not bad for someone who was hired in September.

The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

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