Bihua Chen, Cormorant founder and CEO (Alex Flynn/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cor­moran­t's Bi­hua Chen joins the SPAC game, look­ing to raise $100M for a com­pa­ny that match­es 5 key cri­te­ria

An­oth­er day, an­oth­er life sci­ences SPAC.

The last two days alone have al­ready seen Brent Saun­ders price his $400 mil­lion LLC and Carl Ic­ahn pro­tégé Alex Den­ner file for his $175 mil­lion raise. Now, Bi­hua Chen and the rest of the crossover in­vestors over at Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment are look­ing to raise $100 mil­lion for a spe­cial­ty pur­pose ac­qui­si­tion com­pa­ny called He­lix Ac­qui­si­tion.

With their raise, Cor­morant is fol­low­ing a bunch of oth­er late-stage life sci­ence in­vestors who in just the last few months have turned a “here be drag­ons” area for biotech in­to well-chart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. As re­tail in­vestors have poured cash in­to vir­tu­al­ly any ma­jor biotech — and some mi­nor ones — that’s filed for an S-1 dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, es­tab­lished firms have been able to raise sig­nif­i­cant cap­i­tal on the promise of be­ing able to even­tu­al­ly pick which pri­vate com­pa­ny is worth tak­ing pub­lic.

RA Cap­i­tal raised over $100 mil­lion for their Ther­a­peu­tics Ac­qui­si­tions and Cas­din raised $385 mil­lion. RTW Health Sci­ences and Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, each of whom had suc­cess­ful­ly played the game be­fore, both of­fered new SPACs.

In their fil­ing, Cor­morant not­ed their suc­cess­es in crossovers for oth­er ma­jor biotech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing join­ing such rounds for Bridge­Bio and For­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, who had two of the largest life sci­ences IPOs over the last 18 months. Most no­tably, they led the crossover round for Prin­cip­ia, the au­to-im­mu­ni­ty biotech re­cent­ly bought out by Sanofi for $3.7 bil­lion.

Chen and Cor­morant CFO Jay Collins take the time to sketch out in 5 lines what they’re look­ing for in a com­pa­ny to merge with, al­though much of it is stan­dard check­list for a large late-stage biotech in­vestor:

  • Rig­or­ous sci­ence: A new ap­proach or new in­sight com­bined with tar­gets that have a “clear, sim­ple” ra­tio­nale.
  • Al­ready gen­er­at­ed da­ta for the spe­cif­ic can­di­date or for the plat­form that sug­gest it can of­fer some­thing more than cur­rent treat­ments for a se­ri­ous dis­ease
  • A clear path to more da­ta and to reg­u­la­tors
  • A man­age­ment team that can fol­low that path and “de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize” those can­di­dates and will ben­e­fit from Cor­morant’s cash and ad­vice
  • An “at­trac­tive” val­u­a­tion be­cause it “was over­looked as too ear­ly, mis­un­der­stood due to com­plex sci­ence, or un­der­cap­i­tal­ized and that can of­fer near-term liq­uid­i­ty and sig­nif­i­cant up­side for in­vestors.”

Dif­fer­ent firms have tak­en dif­fer­ent ap­proach­es in their fil­ings, all of which tend to be nec­es­sar­i­ly vague. But, for ex­am­ple, this list stands in con­trast with Cas­din, whose SPAC list­ed three core ar­eas — among them, con­spic­u­ous­ly, syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy — but sparse words on com­pa­ny specifics. And it looks quite sim­i­lar, with dif­fer­ent word­ing, to the list RA Cap­i­tal laid out. But RA Cap­i­tal’s in­clud­ed the stip­u­la­tion that any com­pa­ny “would be fund­ed for at least one year past a key val­ue in­flec­tion point” af­ter a merg­er.

They’ll have two years to find a com­pa­ny that can match.

Albert Bourla (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er fields a CRL for a $295M rare dis­ease play, giv­ing ri­val a big head start

Pfizer won’t be adding a new rare disease drug to the franchise club — for now, anyway.

The pharma giant put out word that their FDA application for the growth hormone therapy somatrogon got the regulatory heave-ho, though they didn’t even hint at a reason for the CRL. Following standard operating procedure, Pfizer said in a terse missive that they would be working with regulators on a followup.

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Graphic: Alexander Lefterov for Endpoints News

Small biotechs with big drug am­bi­tions threat­en to up­end the tra­di­tion­al drug launch play­book

Of the countless decisions Vlad Coric had to make as Biohaven’s CEO over the past seven years, there was one that felt particularly nerve-wracking: Instead of selling to a Big Pharma, the company decided it would commercialize its migraine drug itself.

“I remember some investors yelling and pounding on the table like, you can’t do this. What are you thinking? You’re going to get crushed by AbbVie,” he recalled.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Pfiz­er de­buts Pre­vnar 20 TV ads; Lil­ly gets first FDA 2022 pro­mo slap down let­ter

Pfizer debuted its first TV ad for its Prevnar 20 next-generation pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. In the 60-second spot, several people (actor portrayals) with their ages listed as 65 or older are shown walking into a clinic as they turn to say they’re getting vaccinated with Prevnar 20 because they’re at risk.

The update to Pfizer’s blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine was approved in June, and as its name suggests is a vaccine for 20 serotypes — the original 13 plus seven more that cause pneumococcal disease. Pfizer used to spend heavily on TV ads to promote Prevnar 13 in 2018 and 2019 but cut back its TV budgets in the past two fall and winter seasonal spending cycles. Prevnar had been Pfizer’s top-selling drug, notching sales of just under $6 billion in 2020, and was the world’s top-selling vaccine before the Covid-19 vaccines came to market last year.

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A new can­cer im­munother­a­py brings cau­tious hope for a field long await­ing the next big break­through

Bob Seibert sat silent across from his daughter at their favorite Spanish restaurant near his home in Charleston County, SC, their paella growing cold as he read through all the places in his body doctors found tumors.

He had texted his wife, a pediatric intensive care nurse, when he got the alert that his online chart was ready. Although he saw immediately it was bad, many of the terms — peritoneal, right iliac — were inscrutable. But she was five hours downstate, at a loud group dinner the night before another daughter’s cheer competition.

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Brian Thomas, Metagenomi CEO

Gen 2: Berke­ley spin­out lands $175M megaround to keep it on the cut­ting edge of the boom­ing gene-edit­ing field

The big bucks keep pumping into the gene-editing field.

This morning Metagenomi, allied with one of the biggest names in the mRNA field with a company DNA that includes the ubiquitous Jennifer Doudna, is showing off a $175 million B round that will pay for a rapid swelling of its staff in pursuit of some of the cutting-edge tech that keeps this field in the spotlight. And they’re aligning themselves with some major industry players with an eye on the clinic while getting behind some startups to help expand the work into new fields.

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Roy Baynes, Merck

FDA bats back Mer­ck’s ‘pipeline in a prod­uct,’ de­mands more ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta

Despite some heavy blowback from analysts, Merck execs maintained an upbeat attitude about the market potential of its chronic cough drug gefapixant. But the confidence may be fading somewhat today as Merck puts out news that the FDA is handing back its application with a CRL.

Dubbed by Merck’s development chief Roy Baynes as a “pipeline in a product” with a variety of potential uses, Merck had fielded positive late-stage data demonstrating the drug’s ability to combat chronic cough. The drug dramatically reduced chronic cough in Phase III, but so did placebo, leaving Merck’s research team with a marginal success on the p-value side of the equation.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Opin­ion: Flori­da is so mAb crazy, Ron De­San­tis wants to use mAbs that don't work

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is trying so hard to politicize the FDA and demonize the federal government that he entered into an alternate universe on Monday evening in describing a recent FDA action to restrict the use of two monoclonal antibody, or mAb, treatments for Covid-19 that don’t work against Omicron.

Without further ado, let’s break down his statement from last night, line by line, adjective by adjective.

Not cheap­er by the dozen: Bris­tol My­ers be­comes the 12th phar­ma com­pa­ny to re­strict 340B sales

Bristol Myers Squibb recently joined 11 of its peer pharma companies in limiting how many contract pharmacies can access certain drugs discounted by a federal program known as 340B.

Bristol Myers is just the latest in a series of high-profile pharma companies moving in their own direction as the Biden administration’s Health Resources and Services Administration struggles to rein in the drug discount program for the neediest Americans.

Joaquin Duato, J&J CEO (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

New J&J CEO Joaquin Du­a­to promis­es an ag­gres­sive M&A hunt in quest to grow phar­ma sales

Joaquin Duato stepped away from the sideline and directly into the spotlight on Tuesday, delivering his first quarterly review for J&J as its newly-tapped CEO after an 11-year run in senior posts. And he had some mixed financial news to deliver today while laying claim to a string of blockbuster drugs in the making and outlining an appetite for small and medium-sized M&A deals.

Duato also didn’t exactly shun large buyouts when asked about the future of the company’s medtech business — where they look to be in either the top or number 2 position in every segment they’re in — even though the bar for getting those deals done is so much higher.

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