Ex­pan­sive So­sei lays out a $534M ac­qui­si­tion plan for the am­bi­tious saR­NA biotech Mi­NA

Af­ter swoop­ing in to buy Hep­tares a cou­ple of years ago in a $400 mil­lion deal, So­sei has put a new ac­qui­si­tion play in mo­tion. This morn­ing CEO Pe­ter Bains at So­sei took the first step to­ward a new buy­out, snag­ging 25.6% of the eq­ui­ty of Mi­NA Ther­a­peu­tics and an ex­clu­sive op­tion to ac­quire the com­pa­ny for $45 mil­lion in cash.

Right now Mi­NA is putting its small ac­ti­vat­ing RNA (saR­NA) tech­nol­o­gy to a Phase I/IIa test in liv­er can­cer. If the tri­al works, fol­low­ing an es­tab­lished sched­ule of mile­stones, So­sei can com­plete the deal for an­oth­er $180 mil­lion in cash plus $309 mil­lion more in mile­stones — for a to­tal of $534 mil­lion.

The way Bains ex­plains the deal, So­sei is tak­ing an­oth­er step to­ward cre­at­ing a glob­al com­pa­ny, based in Japan and pur­su­ing biotechs with a glob­al reach of their own.

Robert Habib, Mi­NA CEO

Just af­ter Al­ler­gan and Pfiz­er went their sep­a­rate ways in ear­ly 2016, for ex­am­ple, Al­ler­gan chose to seed an am­bi­tious de­vel­op­ment pact with Hep­tares on new drugs to ad­dress the cog­ni­tive de­cline and be­hav­ioral is­sues as­so­ci­at­ed with Alzheimer’s. Then Hep­tares swooped in to buy GPCR tech in an ac­qui­si­tion of Switzer­land’s G7 ear­li­er this year, which was quick­ly re­ward­ed with a pact from Dai­ichi Sankyo.

Now So­sei wants to take a step-by-step ap­proach to find­ing out if Mi­NA can boost its pipeline with a new slate of its saR­NA ther­a­peu­tics, which adopts a new ap­proach to kick­ing mes­sen­ger RNA in­to ac­tion to cre­ate new drugs — pro­teins — us­ing the body’s cells as a man­u­fac­tur­ing cen­ter. But it’s not just div­ing in all at once. Bains wants to see some da­ta be­fore com­ing back for the whole thing.

Mi­NA brought to­geth­er a group of in­ves­ti­ga­tors like Long-Chen Li, Har­vard’s David Corey and Nagy Habib at Im­pe­r­i­al who have been de­vel­op­ing their RNA tech to trig­ger pro­tein pro­duc­tion to ad­dress spe­cif­ic ail­ments. And their first clin­i­cal en­deav­or for MTL-CEB­PA marks a shot at treat­ment-re­sis­tant liv­er can­cer — an am­bi­tious tar­get.

Mes­sen­ger RNA is a nascent field, but it’s grow­ing fast. Mod­er­na raised a whop­ping $1.9 bil­lion for its work, be­fore see­ing the first snap­shot of hu­man da­ta. Ger­many’s Cure­Vac is al­so hot on the trail.

Says Bains:

We be­lieve MTL-CEB­PA could al­low us to ad­vance our pipeline strat­e­gy with a nov­el clin­i­cal as­set that could be de­vel­oped and ul­ti­mate­ly com­mer­cial­ized by So­sei. We rec­og­nize that this as­set is ear­ly stage and that more ro­bust da­ta will be avail­able in the near term; these con­sid­er­a­tions have in­flu­enced the pru­dent and phased deal struc­ture. We al­so be­lieve that Mi­NA’s RNA ac­ti­va­tion plat­form can be ap­plied to oth­er gene tar­gets, pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate a pipeline of in­no­v­a­tive prod­ucts.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”