Eduardo Bravo (file photo)

Ed­uar­do Bra­vo re­turns to bring Eu­ro­pean biotech in on the SPAC splurge

The last year’s SPAC boom has been dom­i­nat­ed so far by US-based VCs. Now a promi­nent Eu­ro­pean biotech ex­ec­u­tive and a cou­ple in­vestors are get­ting in on the game.

Ed­uar­do Bra­vo, the Big Phar­ma alum and for­mer CEO of the cell ther­a­py com­pa­ny TiGenix, has launched Eu­ro­pean Biotech Ac­qui­si­tion. Based in Am­s­ter­dam (if a SPAC can be said to be based any­where be­sides the Cay­man Is­lands and Ama­zon Web Ser­vices), the new shell com­pa­ny will try to raise $100 mil­lion and use it to take a Eu­ro­pean biotech pub­lic with­in 2 years.

Al­though Bra­vo has tak­en a cou­ple board seats, the SPAC rep­re­sents his first ma­jor move since Take­da bought out TiGenix and their off-the-shelf stem cell tech­nol­o­gy for $600 mil­lion in 2018. Join­ing him are two man­ag­ing part­ners from Life Sci­ence Part­ners: Mar­ti­jn Klei­jwegt, who helped build the now Bio­Marin-owned biotech Pros­en­sa and a biotech that lat­er be­came J&J Vac­cines,  and Mark Wegter, who is on the board of Kiadis.

Bra­vo and LSP’s pitch to in­vestors is that Eu­ro­pean biotechs have been se­vere­ly un­der­val­ued, de­spite the fact that the pace of sci­en­tif­ic re­search and de­vel­op­ment on the con­ti­nent is on par with the pace in the US: Both ar­eas pro­duce a sim­i­lar num­ber of patents — a com­mon met­ric for so­ci­ol­o­gists mea­sur­ing sci­en­tif­ic ac­tiv­i­ty — but there’s four or five times less VC cash avail­able and val­u­a­tions are four to five times small­er.

There is al­so, they said, “ro­bust merg­er & ac­qui­si­tion trans­ac­tion vol­umes,” point­ing to where they might ul­ti­mate­ly want to see any com­pa­ny they merged with go. LSP’s re­cent ex­its in­clude the nat­ur­al killer cell com­pa­ny Nkar­ta, which went pub­lic for $289 mil­lion amid the IPO boom last year, and the au­toim­mune dis­ease biotech Im­mu­nic, which pulled off a re­verse merg­er in 2019.

Take­da, mean­while, sub­mit­ted TiGenix’s lead stem cell ther­a­py for ap­proval in Japan last week. Al­though OK’d in Eu­rope for Crohn’s dis­ease, it has yet to get FDA ap­proval.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Adam Russell, ARPA-H's incoming acting deputy director

NI­H's new, in­de­pen­dent break­through drug ac­cel­er­a­tor ARPA-H gets its first em­ploy­ee

Despite the controversy of housing it in NIH, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday afternoon formally announced the establishment of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as an independent entity within the NIH, as HHS had previously stipulated that “NIH may not subject ARPA-H to NIH policies.”

Becerra also announced the appointment of ARPA-H’s inaugural employee, Adam Russell, who will serve as acting deputy director.

ProFound Therapeutics founding team

Flag­ship's lat­est biotech could turn some of the thou­sands of new pro­teins it dis­cov­ered in­to ther­a­pies — and it has $75M to start

Flagship Pioneering, the incubator of Moderna and dozens of other biotechs, says it has landed upon tens of thousands of previously undiscovered human proteins. The VC shop wants to potentially turn them into therapeutics.

Like other drug developers that have turned proteins into therapeutics (think insulin for diabetes), Flagship’s latest creation, ProFound Therapeutics, wants to tap into this new trove of proteins as part of its mission to treat indications ranging from rare diseases to cancer to immunological diseases.

Richard Silverman, Akava Therapeutics founder and Northwestern professor

This time around, Lyri­ca's in­ven­tor is de­vel­op­ing his North­west­ern dis­cov­er­ies at his own biotech

Richard Silverman was left in the dark for the last five years of clinical development of the drug he discovered. The Northwestern University professor found out about the first approval of Lyrica, in the last few days of 2004, like most other people: in the newspaper.

What became one of Pfizer’s top-selling meds, at $5 billion in 2017 global sales before losing patent protection in 2019, started slipping out of his hands when Northwestern licensed it out to Parke-Davis, one of two biotechs that showed interest in developing the drug in the pre-email days, when the university’s two-person tech transfer team had to ship out letters to garner industry appetite.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Up­dat­ed: US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences

While down 87% YOY, Evelo gets Flag­ship and oth­ers to in­fuse new cap­i­tal for come­back hope

Just four years after Flagship spinout Evelo Biosciences went public in an IPO worth $85 million, the biotech has seen its share price tank from $13 a share this time last year (ultimately reaching a peak of over $17) to now under $1.50. And today, it looks like Flagship still thinks the fledging biotech, in a down market, is still worth something after initial pre-IPO backing from the likes of Google’s GV, Celgene, Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture.

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