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.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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Jude Samulski, Marianne De Backer

Bay­er buys a biotech ‘race horse’ with a $4B deal — $2B in cash — aimed at go­ing big in­to gene ther­a­py

In the latest sign that Big Pharma wants a leading place in the push to develop a new generation of cell and gene therapies, Bayer is stepping up today with a $2 billion cash deal to buy out one of the fast-moving pioneers in the field, while adding up to $2 billion more in milestones if the new pharma subsidiary can deliver the goods.

As part of a continuing series of deals engineered by Bayer BD chief Marianne De Backer, the pharma player has snapped up Asklepios, more commonly referred to in more casual fashion as AskBio. And they are paying top dollar for a Research Triangle Park-based company that raised $225 million a little more than a year ago to back the brainchild of Jude Samulski, the gene therapy pioneer out of the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center.

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Chi­nese rare dis­ease play­er inks first deal around nar­colep­sy drug Wak­ix af­ter grab­bing $80M to build an ecosys­tem

Two months ago, the narcolepsy therapy Wakix propelled Harmony Biosciences to a $128 million debut on Nasdaq. Now, the same drug is serving as the foundation for a Chinese biotech looking to pioneer a rare disease platform in the country.

Citrine Medicine — which closed $80 million in Series A funding in July — was incubated by F-Prime and Eight Roads, two VC funds affiliated with Fidelity Investments that saw an opening in China to replicate in the vibrant orphan drug landscape in the US (and to a lesser extent, Europe).

En­her­tu picks up an­oth­er win for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi Sankyo, join­ing the pri­or­i­ty re­view lane for gas­tric can­cer

Five months after Enhertu received twin breakthrough therapy designations, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo are one step closer to nabbing another approval for their potential blockbuster drug.

The companies announced Wednesday morning that their billion-dollar antibody-drug conjugate has received priority review for HER2 positive metastatic gastric cancer. Already approved in the US for third-line metastatic breast cancer patients that are HER2 positive, Enhertu’s gastric cancer PDUFA date is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

Sci­en­tists warn Amer­i­cans are ex­pect­ing too much from a coro­n­avirus vac­cine

The White House and many Americans have pinned their hopes for defeating the Covid-19 pandemic on a vaccine being developed at “warp speed.” But some scientific experts warn they’re all expecting too much, too soon.

“Everyone thinks COVID-19 will go away with a vaccine,” said William Haseltine, chair and president of Access Health International, a foundation that advocates for affordable care.

No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan signs off on a $231M deal to try some­thing new in the R&D fight against SARS-CoV-2

Patrick Amstutz was baptized by pandemic fire early on.

He and colleagues attended the notorious Cowen conference in early March that included some of the top Biogen execs who helped trigger a superspreader event in Boston. Heading back to his post as CEO of Molecular Partners in Switzerland, the outbreak was sweeping through Italy, triggering near panic in some quarters and creeping into the voices of people he knew, including one friend on the Italian side of the country.

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Cedric Francois, Apellis CEO (Optum via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: So­bi bets $250M cash, about $1B in mile­stones for rights to a C3 ther­a­py be­ing pushed through 5 piv­otal tri­als

A couple years after licensing Novimmune’s emapalumab and turning around a quick FDA OK, Stockholm-based Sobi is betting up to $1.2 billion for rights to another rare disease drug.

The company is shelling out $250 million upfront and adding up to $915 million in milestones for rights to develop and commercialize Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ drug pegcetacoplan outside the US. Together, the companies will see the systemic C3 therapy through five registrational trials in hematology, nephrology and neurology.

Christian Rommel (via Roche)

Bay­er fol­lows R&D deal spree by raid­ing Roche's can­cer group for its new re­search chief

The day after Bayer signed off on a $4 billion deal designed to put the company among the leaders in gene therapy development, the pharma giant has recruited a new chief for its R&D division. And they opted for an expert in the cancer field.

Christian Rommel, Roche’s head of discovery and early-stage oncology development, has been tapped to take over the job. Joerg Moeller, who got the top research post after early- and late-stage development roles were combined 2 years ago, is hitting the exit “to pursue other career opportunities.”

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