Keith Meister (Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Eli Cas­din and Kei­th Meis­ter dive back in­to the SPAC well with $480M haul just weeks af­ter So­ma­Log­ic re­verse merg­er

Wall Street’s SPAC at­tack con­tin­ued Wednes­day, with two more high-pro­file blank check com­pa­nies pric­ing their IPOs.

Eli Cas­din

Eli Cas­din and Kei­th Meis­ter’s third SPAC hopped to Nas­daq with a mas­sive $480 mil­lion haul, and Oleg Nodel­man’s sec­ond hold­ing com­pa­ny de­buted with a $150 mil­lion raise. Both SPACs sig­nal that the blank check field in 2021, which eclipsed all of last year’s to­tal SPAC raise across the fi­nan­cial sec­tor with­in the first quar­ter, re­mains at full steam ahead.

The Cas­din and Meis­ter ef­fort, known as CM Life Sci­ences III, comes just a few weeks af­ter their sec­ond SPAC an­nounced its in­tent to merge with So­ma­Log­ic, one of a num­ber of pro­teomics biotechs look­ing to un­der­stand the hu­man body by look­ing at pro­teins rather than DNA and RNA. That deal net­ted the com­pa­ny a val­u­a­tion north of $1.2 bil­lion.

Go­ing pub­lic through the quick­er SPAC route al­lowed So­ma­Log­ic to “dou­ble down” on its strat­e­gy of both col­lect­ing pro­teom­ic da­ta and cre­at­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for clin­i­cal tri­als us­ing that da­ta, CEO Roy Smythe told End­points News at the time.

Cas­din and Meis­ter have gone all in on SPACs since last sum­mer. We’re still on­ly sev­en months out from the an­nounce­ment of their first SPAC back in Sep­tem­ber, which at the time marked one of the biggest blank-check tar­gets ever at $385 mil­lion. Its haul swelled to $450 mil­lion when the re­verse merg­er with Se­ma4 was an­nounced in Feb­ru­ary.

Short­ly af­ter­ward, the sec­ond CM Life Sci­ences SPAC made its splash too, pric­ing the same month as the Se­ma4 deal and quick­ly be­com­ing So­ma­Log­ic’s ve­hi­cle to Nas­daq.

Oleg Nodel­man

For Nodel­man’s team, Panacea II is the sec­ond blank check com­pa­ny to go pub­lic since his Ecor1 firm launched its first in June 2020. The shell found a part­ner quite quick­ly, agree­ing to take David Hung’s Nu­va­tion Bio pub­lic last Oc­to­ber, with the pair com­plet­ing their merg­er in Feb­ru­ary.

Among the promi­nent SPACs that have filed or merged so far in 2021 in­clude Fore­site and Per­cep­tive, who both an­nounced their lat­est SPACs in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary. Oth­ers like Khosla Ven­tures and Ed­uar­do Bra­vo al­so joined the par­ty with SPACs of their own.

Then, Ra­jiv Shuk­la — one of the first in­vestors to hop on board the biotech SPAC train — launched his third such com­pa­ny. Shuk­la took his first SPAC pub­lic back in 2017 be­fore the cur­rent groundswell of blank check com­pa­nies.

To top it all off is Richard Bran­son’s SPAC an­nounc­ing its merg­er with di­ag­nos­tics and an­ces­try com­pa­ny 23andMe, an ef­fort that would be used to fur­ther the firm’s drug de­vel­op­ment busi­ness af­ter it part­nered with GSK in 2018 for $300 mil­lion.

Wednes­day’s new SPACs come short­ly af­ter the SEC opened an in­quiry in­to how Wall Street banks are man­ag­ing their risks in the blank check deals, ask­ing fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to vol­un­tar­i­ly pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about how they’re in­ter­nal­ly polic­ing SPACs.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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