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.

Charles Baum, Mirati CEO

Mi­rati plots a march to the FDA for its KRAS G12C drug, breath­ing down Am­gen’s neck with bet­ter da­ta

Mirati Therapeutics $MRTX took another closely-watched step toward a now clearly defined goal to file for an approval for its KRAS G12C cancer drug adagrasib (MRTX849), scoring a higher response rate than the last readout from the class-leading rival at Amgen but still leaving open a raft of important questions about its future.

Following a snapshot of the first handful of responses, where the drug scored a tumor response in 3 of 5 patients with non-small cell lung cancer, the response rate has now slid to 45% among a pooled group of 51 early-stage and Phase II patients, 43% — 6 of 14 — when looking solely at the Phase I/Ib. Those 14 patients had a median treatment duration of 8.2 months, with half still on therapy and 5 of 6 responders still in response.

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In his­toric Covid-19 ad­comm, vac­cine ex­perts de­bate a sea of ques­tions — but of­fer no clear an­swers

The most widely anticipated and perhaps most widely watched meeting in the FDA’s 113-year history ended late Thursday night with a score of questions and very few answers.

For nearly 9 hours, 18 different outside experts listened to public health agencies and foundations present how the United States’ Covid-19 vaccine program developed through October, and they debated where it should go from there: Were companies testing the right metrics in their massive trials? How long should they track patients before declaring a vaccine safe or effective? Should a vaccine, once authorized, be given to the volunteers in the placebo arm of a trial?

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (via YouTube)

Bio­gen spot­lights a pair of painful pipeline set­backs as ad­u­canum­ab show­down looms at the FDA

Biogen has flagged a pair of setbacks in the pipeline, spotlighting the final failure for a one-time top MS prospect while scrapping a gene therapy for SMA after the IND was put on hold due to toxicity.

Both failures will raise the stakes even higher on aducanumab, the Alzheimer’s drug that Biogen is betting the ranch on, determined to pursue an FDA OK despite significant skepticism they can make it with mixed results and a reliance on post hoc data mining. And the failures are being reported as Biogen was forced to cut its profit forecast for 2020 as a generic rival started to erode their big franchise drug.

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Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner (AP Images)

As FDA sets the stage for the first Covid-19 vac­cine EUAs, some big play­ers are ask­ing for a tweak of the guide­lines

Setting the stage for an extraordinary one-day meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee this Thursday, the FDA has cleared 2 experts of financial conflicts to help beef up the committee. And regulators went on to specify the safety, efficacy and CMC input they’re looking for on EUAs, before they move on to the full BLA approval process.

All of this has already been spelled out to the developers. But the devil is in the details, and it’s clear from the first round of posted responses that some of the top players — including J&J and Pfizer — would like some adjustments and added feedback. And on Thursday, the experts can offer their own thoughts on shaping the first OKs.

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Bo Cumbo, AavantiBio CEO (file photo)

Bo Cum­bo jumps from the top com­mer­cial post at Sarep­ta to the helm of a gene ther­a­py start­up with some in­flu­en­tial back­ers, big plans and $107M

After a 7-year stretch building the commercial team at Sarepta, longtime drug salesman Bo Cumbo is jumping to the entrepreneurial side of the business, taking the helm of a startup that’s got several deep-pocket investors. And he’s not just bringing his experience in selling drugs.

He tells me that when he told Sarepta CEO Doug Ingram about it, his boss got excited about the venture and opted to jump in with a $15 million investment from Sarepta to add to the launch money, alongside 3 of the busiest investors in biotech.

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Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO (Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: FDA gives As­traZeneca the thumbs-up to restart PhI­II Covid-19 vac­cine tri­als, and J&J is prepar­ing to re­sume its study

Several countries had restarted their portions of AstraZeneca’s global Phase III Covid-19 vaccine trial after the study was paused worldwide in early September, but the US notably stayed on the sidelines — until now. Friday afternoon the pharma giant announced the all clear from US regulators. And on top of that, J&J announced Friday evening that it’s preparing to resume its own Phase III vaccine trial.

Ul­tragenyx in­jects $40M to grab Solid's mi­crody­s­trophin trans­gene — while side­step­ping the AAV9 vec­tor that stirred up safe­ty fears

Since before Ilan Ganot started Solid Bio to develop a gene therapy for kids like his son, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Ultragenyx CEO Emil Kakkis has been watching and advising the former investment banker as he navigated the deep waters of drug development.

Just as Solid is getting back up on its feet after a yearlong clinical hold, Kakkis has decided to jump in for a formal alliance.

With a $40 million upfront, Ultragenyx is grabbing 14.45% of Solid’s shares $SLDB and the rights to its microdystrophin construct for use in combination with AAV8 vectors. Solid’s lead program, which utilizes AAV9, remains unaffected. The company also retains rights to other applications of its transgene.

A top drug pro­gram at Bay­er clears a high bar for CKD — open­ing the door to an FDA pitch

Over the past 4 years, Bayer has been steering a major trial through a pivotal program to see if their drug finerenone could slow down the pace of chronic kidney disease in patients suffering from both CKD as well as Type 2 diabetes.

Today, their team jumped on a virtual meeting hosted by the American Society of Nephrology to offer a solid set of pivotal data to demonstrate that the drug can delay dialysis or a kidney replacement as well as cardio disease, while also adding some worrying signs of hyperkalemia among the patients taking the drug. And they’re hustling it straight to regulators in search of an approval for kidney disease and cardio patients — one of the toughest challenges in the book, as demonstrated by repeated past failures.

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Adam Koppel and Jeffrey Schwartz, Bain

Bain ex­ecs Adam Kop­pel and Jef­frey Schwartz line up $125M for their first blank check deal as Wall Street con­tin­ues to em­brace biotech

Adam Koppel and Jeffrey Schwartz have jumped into the blank check game, raising $125 million for a stock listing in search of a company.

Their SPAC, BCLS Acquisition Corp, raised $125 million this week, with a line on $25 million more as it scouts for a biotech in search of money and a place on Wall Street.

The two principals at Bain Life Sciences have been on a romp since they set up the Bain operation 4 years ago. Their S-1 spells out a track record of 22 deals totaling $650 million for the life sciences group, which led to 9 IPOs.