Roderick Wong. RTW Investments

Float­ing in stormy seas, RTW seeks $350M for new Lon­don-list­ed ven­ture fund

Swim­ming against some tur­bu­lent wa­ters in the UK pub­lic mar­kets, RTW In­vest­ments has out­lined a plan to raise $350 mil­lion by list­ing a ven­ture fund on the Lon­don Stock Ex­change.

New York-based RTW counts six seed as­sets and $145.5 mil­lion in net as­set val­ue in the new fund, hav­ing re­cent­ly raised $118 mil­lion from 92 pri­vate in­vestors. Rod­er­ick Wong, man­ag­ing part­ner and chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer, con­tributed $25 mil­lion of his own mon­ey.

“As an in­vestor com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ing trans­for­ma­tion­al ther­a­pies for over fif­teen years, I have nev­er seen the op­por­tu­ni­ty set as ex­cit­ing as it is to­day,” Wong said in a fil­ing. “We are at the dawn of life sci­ences in­no­va­tion and I am ex­cit­ed to have the priv­i­lege to sup­port com­pa­nies that have the po­ten­tial to im­pact lives.”

This ef­fort puts RTW shoul­der-to-shoul­der with Syn­cona and Neil Wood­ford’s em­bat­tled Pa­tient Cap­i­tal Trust, closed-end­ed in­vest­ment com­pa­nies that give pub­lic in­vestors ac­cess to (most­ly pri­vate) star­tups.

It al­so marks the lat­est un­con­ven­tion­al in­vest­ing idea from Wong, who led the re­cent ef­fort to take Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Im­muno­vant pub­lic via a merg­er with a blank check com­pa­ny cre­at­ed by RTW.

Most of their cur­rent and planned hold­ings are US-based biotechs, with the ex­cep­tion of Ox­ford spin­out Im­muno­core (which al­so has op­er­a­tions in Penn­syl­va­nia) and a Chi­nese new­co in the pipeline. The full list, with their re­spec­tive val­u­a­tions:

  • Be­ta Bion­ics ($5.0 mil­lion): in­sulin de­liv­ery sys­tem
  • Fre­quen­cy $FREQ ($2.9 mil­lion): small mol­e­cule drugs for hear­ing loss
  • Im­muno­core ($5.0 mil­lion): T cell re­cep­tor ther­a­pies
  • Lan­dos ($5.0 mil­lion): Oral drugs for in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and au­toim­mune con­di­tions
  • Or­ches­tra ($2.5 mil­lion): Sirolimus elut­ing bal­loon for coro­nary and pe­riph­er­al ar­te­r­i­al dis­ease
  • Rock­et $RCKT ($34.2 mil­lion): Gene ther­a­py
  • Avid­i­ty (planned; up to $7.5 mil­lion): Rare mus­cle dis­or­ders
  • Chi­na New­Co (planned; $5-10 mil­lion): Dis­trib­ut­ing US/Eu­rope drugs in Chi­na

Mov­ing for­ward, the com­pa­ny will bet on op­por­tu­ni­ties across ge­o­gra­phies and ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas, ded­i­cat­ing 80% to bio­phar­ma and 20% to medtech. Each ini­tial in­vest­ment would amount to some­where around 5% to 10% of RTW Ven­ture Fund’s gross as­sets, it wrote in the fil­ing.

To start, it plans to de­ploy around one-third of its cap­i­tal to­ward com­pa­ny for­ma­tions or ear­ly-stage en­ti­ties, with the oth­er two-thirds go­ing to mid- and late-stage ven­tures.

In the fil­ing, RTW boast­ed its track record of man­ag­ing over $2.1 bil­lion and “its long-term fo­cus and a sci­ence-dri­ven, fun­da­men­tal ap­proach to in­vest­ing.”

“The In­vest­ment Man­ag­er has in­vest­ed in 28 pri­vate com­pa­nies to date, and in­creas­ing­ly has been se­lect­ed to lead trans­ac­tions, lead­ing six of the 12 trans­ac­tions closed in 2018 and four of the nine trans­ac­tions closed in 2019,” it wrote.

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cuts risk of Covid-19 by up to 80% among the most vul­ner­a­ble — but will it have a place next to vac­cines?

Eli Lilly says bamlanivimab lowered the risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19 in a first-of-its-kind trial involving nursing home residents and staff, paving the way for a new option to protect against the virus.

But how big of an impact it might have, and what role it will play, at a time vaccines are being rolled out to the exact population it is targeting still remains unclear.

Among 965 participants in the study — all of whom tested negative for the coronavirus at baseline — the number of symptomatic cases reported in the bamlanivimab arm was 57% lower than that in the placebo arm (odds ratio 0.43, p=0.00021). In addition to that primary endpoint, all secondary endpoints reached statistical significance.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Charlie Fuchs, Roche and Genentech global head of product development for oncology and hematology (Yale Cancer Center)

Yale can­cer spe­cial­ist Char­lie Fuchs tapped as new glob­al de­vel­op­ment chief for Roche/Genen­tech

Roche and their big sub Genentech have just recruited a top cancer specialist at Yale to head up global product development in oncology and hematology.

I just got word that the pharma giant, which leads one of the most active cancer research operations in the world, recruited Charlie Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital. He’ll join the global operation March 1 and will be based in South San Francisco, where Genentech is based.

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Jonathan Weissman (MIT)

Can a new CRISPR tech­nique un­lock the se­crets of how can­cer spreads?

Jonathan Weissman’s team watched the cancer cells spread across the doomed mouse. Engineered with a bioluminescent enzyme, they appeared in scans first as a small navy blue diamond lodged near the heart; a week later, as a triangle splayed across the mouse’s upper body, with streaks of green and two distinct bright red hubs of activity. By day 54, the mouse resembled a lava lamp.

The images would have been familiar to any cancer biologist, but they didn’t actually tell you much about what was going on: why the cancer was metastasizing or which cells were responsible. For that, Weissman’s team had designed a new tool. Inside the original navy blue diamond, they had engineered the microbiological equivalent of an airplane’s black box — a “molecular recorder” that, after the mouse’s death, could allow them to extract the cells and wind back intimate footage of a single cancer’s ascent.

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Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

Neu­vo­gen un­cloaks with broad plan of at­tack for whole-cell can­cer vac­cines, clin­i­cal hopes with­in the year

After about four stealthy years in the development phase, San Diego-based Neuvogen is emerging with a new approach to whole-cell cancer vaccines and nine solid tumor programs bound for the clinic.

Whole-cell tumor vaccines are developed by taking cancer cells from patients and modifying them to make them immunogenic.

“What’s different from what we do, is most people use one cell line. We use six,” CEO Todd Binder said. From there, the company builds out six modifications to eliminate problematic immunosuppressive factors, and add what the executive called three “stimulatory factors” to generate a prime and overcome peripheral tolerance.