Eyes on neu­ro break­throughs, new­com­er Bio­mat­ics adds biotech vets and $300M with sec­ond fund

Julie Sun­der­land

Less than two years af­ter a pair of Gates Foun­da­tion vets — Boris Nikolic and Julie Sun­der­land — got start­ed with their first ven­ture fund at Bio­mat­ics fo­cused on the in­ter­sec­tion of health­care and tech­nol­o­gy, they’re back with their sec­ond fund.

And this time they’re go­ing deep­er.

Boris Nikolic

While the first fund de­liv­ered $250 mil­lion that was used to back the neu­ro teams at De­nali, Black­Thorn Ther­a­peu­tics, along with Grail and oth­er high-pro­file tech ven­tures grab­bing head­lines in the in­dus­try, this sec­ond fund has upped the ante to $300 mil­lion. That fast growth un­der­scores the fa­vor­able view their in­vestors have in this sec­tor, as well as the go-go at­mos­phere in new com­pa­ny cre­ation that has grabbed the world’s at­ten­tion in 2018.

The ini­tial ex­pe­ri­ence whet their ap­petite for “break­through sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” says Sun­der­land. “We are pur­su­ing a sim­i­lar the­sis with our next fund.”

Errik An­der­son

Bio­mat­ics is al­so ex­pand­ing the small team along with its cache of cash. Errik An­der­son — a right-hand man to Till­man Gern­gross at Adimab, where he was COO and co-founder — is com­ing on board in Boston. And an­oth­er Gates Foun­da­tion vet, Mike Poole, is join­ing the crew af­ter lead­ing the foun­da­tion’s in­vest­ments in Alzheimer’s, a key fo­cus for Bill Gates. Poole had been in charge of neu­ro for As­traZeneca at one point, be­fore the phar­ma gi­ant scaled back most of its op­er­a­tions in that field.

Mike Poole

“We have a the­sis that neu­ro is sort of the next fron­tier,” she adds, ex­plain­ing why De­nali and Black­Thorn — both in South San Fran­cis­co — stood out among the com­pa­nies they’re back­ing. The field has been a dis­as­ter zone for a slew of large com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in risky fields like Alzheimer’s, but these up­starts are re­ly­ing on new in­sights on ge­nomics and a rigid de­vo­tion to cut­ting-edge sci­ence as prac­ticed by some of the smartest peo­ple in biotech.

And that’s say­ing quite a lot.

“We’ve tend­ed to move ear­li­er,” adds Sun­der­land. “One of the clichés we learned re­al­ly well over the last two-and-a-half years: Great peo­ple around great sci­ence is where we get to suc­cess.”

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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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture

At­las rais­es new $400M fund amid spree of VC rais­es. Here’s what they’ll spend it on

You can add another few hundred million to the now Montana-sized reservoir of cash biotech VCs have raised since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Atlas Venture, the prominent Kendall Square incubator, has raised $400 million for its twelfth biotech fund, their first in 3 years. After a string of mammoth new raises from other major VCs in April and May, the total pot now stands between $5 billion and $6 billion, depending on how you slice it.

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