Michael Stubblefield, Avantor CEO

Dou­bling down on need for mR­NA vac­cines and mAbs, Avan­tor puts near­ly $3B in pumps and tub­ing com­pa­ny

Ac­qui­si­tion-hap­py man­u­fac­tur­er Avan­tor has po­si­tioned it­self at the front of the bat­tle against Covid-19, and Tues­day it made an­oth­er move to em­bed it­self deep­er in­to the on­go­ing pan­dem­ic re­sponse.

Penn­syl­va­nia-based Avan­tor ac­quired Mas­ter­flex from Antylia Sci­en­tif­ic for $2.7 bil­lion in an all-cash trans­ac­tion, the com­pa­ny an­nounced. The ac­qui­si­tion is Avan­tor’s 43rd over­all, as it has put more than $11 bil­lion in­to projects since 2011, the com­pa­ny said, with this trans­ac­tion aim­ing to be com­plet­ed in the fourth quar­ter.

Mas­ter­flex is head­quar­tered in Ver­non Hills, IL, and man­u­fac­tures peri­staltic pumps, sin­gle-use en­gi­neered tub­ing and com­po­nents, which are used dur­ing asep­tic flu­id trans­fer. The buy al­lows Avatar to up its mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body, cell and gene ther­a­py, vac­cine and mR­NA pro­duc­tion for a num­ber of ill­ness­es, in­clud­ing Covid-19.

In beef­ing up its Covid op­er­a­tions, and cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the de­mand for vac­cines, Avan­tor’s an­nounce­ment comes on the heels of the US gov­ern­ment’s plan to in­vest $3 bil­lion in the vac­cine sup­ply chain. Boost­er shots have been rec­om­mend­ed for high-risk in­di­vid­u­als and some of the ear­li­est re­cip­i­ents of the jab.

“The busi­ness en­hances our port­fo­lio of pro­pri­etary tech­nolo­gies and strength­ens our po­si­tion in the high­est growth seg­ments of the mar­ket,” Avan­tor CEO Michael Stub­ble­field said in a press re­lease. “Both Avan­tor and Mas­ter­flex share a strong cul­ture of in­no­va­tion and ex­cel­lence, and we look for­ward to wel­com­ing Mas­ter­flex’s high­ly skilled team to the Avan­tor fam­i­ly.”

Mas­ter­flex’s pumps and tub­ing move ma­te­ri­als through the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, all the way through the fill-fin­ish stage. The mar­ket for its tech­nol­o­gy is ex­pect­ed to grow by 15%, Avan­tor said in its call with in­vestors Tues­day, and the com­pa­ny es­ti­mates an ad­dress­able mar­ket worth $5 bil­lion by 2025. Stub­ble­field said that there were fac­tors be­yond eco­nom­ics that made his com­pa­ny the most at­trac­tive buy­er, in­clud­ing its lack of reg­u­la­to­ry con­cerns, abil­i­ty to close quick­ly and strength of its sin­gle-use bio­pro­duc­tion.

“We would now have the on­ly end-to-end, ful­ly in­te­grat­ed sin­gle-use man­age­ment so­lu­tion for the bio­pro­duc­tion space, so I know that the sell­ers were ex­cit­ed and anx­ious to sell us their plat­form,” he said.

In April, Avan­tor ac­quired Rit­ter GmbH and its af­fil­i­ates, ex­pand­ing its clin­i­cal di­ag­nos­tic test­ing. Rit­ter, a Ger­man com­pa­ny pur­chased for more than $1 bil­lion, spe­cial­izes in con­sum­ables that are used in PCR tests used for Covid-19 test­ing. That ac­qui­si­tion brought aboard a 40,000-square-me­ter man­u­fac­tur­ing site with 6,000 square me­ters worth of clean rooms, leav­ing plen­ty of room for fu­ture growth.

Though some com­pa­nies have re­port­ed a de­crease in Covid-19 test­ing that’s led to a stark loss of rev­enue, the Delta vari­ant has raised the num­ber of di­ag­nos­tics tests need­ed both in the US and abroad, and that num­ber may not shrink quite as quick­ly as was once ex­pect­ed. In Avan­tor’s Q2 call, Stub­ble­field said that rough­ly 40-50% of rev­enue came from di­ag­nos­tics, and 40-50% came from vac­cine pro­duc­tion.

“I think we’ve been quite con­sis­tent on our view about di­ag­nos­tics, we cer­tain­ly don’t have a lot of vis­i­bil­i­ty in­to that mar­ket,” he said in the call. “We can re­al­ly on­ly see over the next one to two weeks, we’ve al­ready baked in a very ag­gres­sive ramp down (of a need for di­ag­nos­tics) in­to our pro­jec­tion.”

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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Jay Bradner (Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Div­ing deep­er in­to in­her­it­ed reti­nal dis­or­ders, No­var­tis gob­bles up an­oth­er bite-sized op­to­ge­net­ics biotech

Right about a year ago, a Novartis team led by Jay Bradner and Cynthia Grosskreutz at NIBR swooped in to scoop up a Cambridge, MA-based opthalmology gene therapy company called Vedere. Their focus was on a rather narrow market niche: inherited retinal dystrophies that include a wide range of genetic retinal disorders marked by the loss of photoreceptor cells and progressive vision loss.

But that was just the first deal that whet their appetite.

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FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.