For­bion rais­es $316M to tap the po­ten­tial of Eu­ro­pean biotech plays

Where­as there’s no lack of ven­ture dol­lars for US biotechs these days, their Eu­ro­pean coun­ter­parts are still deal­ing with an “on­go­ing un­der­sup­ply” of cap­i­tal — at least ac­cord­ing to the Eu­rope-based VCs at For­bion Cap­i­tal. And they are ad­dress­ing the prob­lem head-on with $316 mil­lion (€270 mil­lion) they just raised.

Sander Slootweg

Mark­ing the first close of its fourth fund — which had an orig­i­nal tar­get of $292 mil­lion (€250 mil­lion) — the mon­ey from new and ex­ist­ing in­vestors will al­low the firm to bet on around 15 com­pa­nies with a hands-on ap­proach. The ide­al port­fo­lio will fea­ture five com­pa­nies built from scratch at For­bion (“build” op­por­tu­ni­ties) and 10 oth­ers that it thinks it can help trans­form in­to high-re­turn busi­ness­es (“growth” op­por­tu­ni­ties).
In most cas­es, that will mean com­mand­ing a lead po­si­tion in the biotech com­pa­nies — any­where from 20% to 50% — and work­ing close­ly with the founders, just as they have done in their $200 mil­lion-plus For­bion III.

This is the third Eu­ro­pean biotech ven­ture fund to land to­day, to­tal­ing more than $900 mil­lion.

If For­bion learn any­thing from their last fund, it is that “(bio)phar­ma is the most lu­cra­tive sec­tor in life sci­ences. Com­pa­nies with nov­el prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies get ac­quired ear­ly on and pub­lic mar­kets have been very re­cep­tive,” says Sander Slootweg, who has been tapped to man­age the fund with Geert-Jan Mul­der and Mar­tien van Osch.

Mar­tien von Osch

While the fund is ex­plic­it­ly Eu­ro­cen­tric, 20% of For­bion IV will be al­lo­cat­ed to North Amer­i­can busi­ness­es.

Slootweg sees the Eu­ro­pean biotech scene as “very healthy,” with on­ly pub­lic mar­kets lag­ging some­what be­hind the US — which isn’t re­al­ly that much of a prob­lem when you con­sid­er the rel­a­tive ease for for­eign is­suers to list on the Nas­daq.

He would know. Of the com­pa­nies For­bion wa­gered on in its last run, brain dis­or­der drug­mak­er Prex­ton Ther­a­peu­tics was sold to Lund­beck for $1.1 bil­lion (€905 mil­lion); NASH play­er Arkar­na was picked up by Al­ler­gan with a $50 mil­lion up­front; I/O biotech Rigontec was ac­quired by Mer­ck for $554 mil­lion (€463 mil­lion); and an­oth­er I/O start­up, Replimune, re­cent­ly joined the US biotech IPO fi­es­ta, rais­ing $100 mil­lion.

Geert-Jan Mul­der

We will have to wait un­til this fall, when For­bion aims to close the fund, to learn more about the in­vest­ments that they ul­ti­mate­ly de­cide to go with. But the team has al­ready iden­ti­fied quite a few of them, span­ning ar­eas such as the mi­cro­bio­me, in­flam­ma­tion, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and meta­bol­ic dis­ease, Slootweg tells me.

Fol­low­ing news of job cuts in Eu­ro­pean R&D ops, Sanofi con­firms it’s of­fer­ing US work­ers an 'ear­ly ex­it'

Ear­li­er in the week we learned that Sanofi was bring­ing out the bud­get ax to trim 466 R&D jobs in Eu­rope, re­tool­ing its ap­proach to car­dio as re­search chief John Reed beefed up their work in can­cer and gene ther­a­pies. And we’re end­ing the week with news that the phar­ma gi­ant has al­so been qui­et­ly re­duc­ing staff in the US, tar­get­ing hun­dreds of jobs as the com­pa­ny push­es vol­un­tary buy­outs with a fo­cus on R&D sup­port ser­vices.

How small- to mid-sized biotechs can adopt pa­tient cen­tric­i­ty in their on­col­o­gy tri­als

By Lucy Clos­sick Thom­son, Se­nior Di­rec­tor of On­col­o­gy Pro­ject Man­age­ment, Icon

Clin­i­cal tri­als in on­col­o­gy can be cost­ly and chal­leng­ing to man­age. One fac­tor that could re­duce costs and re­duce bar­ri­ers is har­ness­ing the pa­tient voice in tri­al de­sign to help ac­cel­er­ate pa­tient en­roll­ment. Now is the time to adopt pa­tient-cen­tric strate­gies that not on­ly fo­cus on pa­tient needs, but al­so can main­tain cost ef­fi­cien­cy.

Why would the FDA ap­prove an­oth­er con­tro­ver­sial drug to spur a woman’s li­bido with these da­ta? And why no ex­pert pan­el re­view?

AMAG Pharmaceuticals’ newly approved drug for spurring women’s sexual desire may never make much money, but it’s a big hit at sparking media attention.

The therapy — Vyleesi (bremelanotide) — got the green light from regulators on Friday evening, swiftly lighting up a range of stories around the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian. Several headlines inevitably referred to it as the “female Viagra,” invoking Pfizer’s old erectile dysfunction blockbuster.

But the two drugs have little in common.

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Which top 10 big phar­mas have the most to gain — or lose — over the next 5 years?

When Evaluate Pharma crunched the likely drug sales numbers for the big 10, 2 stood out. 

Takeda, with its big Shire buyout under its belt, is set to almost double its worldwide sales record for 2018 over 5 years, putting it in the big 10 — the 9th spot, to be exact — which is exactly where CEO Christophe Weber wants to be. 

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Roger Perlmutter. Merck via webcast

'Our lega­cy mat­ter­s': Mer­ck maps out Keytru­da king­dom while spot­light­ing ad­vances in vac­cines, hos­pi­tal care

“You can for the mo­ment stop tak­ing notes. You can put down your pens and your pad. I have no slides. I have no sub­stan­tive da­ta. I have no pitch.”

So be­gan Roger Perl­mut­ter’s brief ap­pear­ance on­stage at Mer­ck’s first in­vestor day in five years, where he dived in­to the com­pa­ny’s his­to­ry dat­ing back to 1933. The first em­ploy­ees at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries, hand­picked by founder George W. Mer­ck, were crit­i­cal to Mer­ck’s abil­i­ty to achieve clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Eli Casdin, Casdin Capital

Eli Cas­din backs Codex­is' plat­form tech with $50M eq­ui­ty buy

About a month af­ter Codex­is notched a deal with No­var­tis $NVS, the Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny $CDXS on Thurs­day said long-time in­vestor Cas­din Cap­i­tal is putting up $50 mil­lion in a pri­vate place­ment, which puts the New York-based in­vest­ment firm in con­trol of more than 5% of the pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing play­er’s stock.

Eli Cas­din start­ed his epony­mous in­vest­ment firm in 2012 and dates his re­la­tion­ship with Codex­is back to at least a decade. About three years ago, Cas­din Cap­i­tal be­gan in­vest­ing in the in­dus­tri­al biotech com­pa­ny, af­ter it piv­ot­ed its fo­cus to the life sci­ences — un­der the aus­pices of new chief John Nicols — away from the en­er­gy in­dus­try.

John Reed at JPM 2019. Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D reorganization inside Sanofi is continuing, more than a year after the pharma giant brought in John Reed to head the research arm of the Paris-based company.

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Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.