Ben Auspitz, F-Prime

From $30M launch round to $400M buy­out deal — with $250M up­front — in 10 short months

Stephen Farr Zo­genix

F-Prime’s Ben Aus­pitz has turned a mod­est in­vest­ment in his new­ly launched biotech Modis Ther­a­peu­tics in­to a quick score on the M&A side. And the deal comes with some lessons on the speed rare dis­ease biotechs can move these days, as well as the val­ue they can cre­ate in short or­der.

Ra­zor fo­cused on rare mi­to­chon­dr­i­al DNA de­ple­tion dis­or­ders, Oak­land, CA-based Zo­genix $ZGNX has come up with a $400 mil­lion deal to bag the com­pa­ny and its fledg­ling pipeline — just 10 months af­ter Aus­pitz put to­geth­er a $30 mil­lion A round. The buy­out terms in­clude $250 mil­lion in cash and stock along with $150 mil­lion for reg­u­la­to­ry ap­provals in the US and Eu­rope.

The deal gives Zo­genix chief Stephen Farr the chance to get this one right from the start. The com­pa­ny was em­bar­rassed by a refuse-to-file no­tice from the FDA last April for their drug to treat Dravet syn­drome. Reg­u­la­tors called out the com­pa­ny for slop­py and in­ad­e­quate work.

Mi­chio Hi­ra­no Co­lum­bia

Aus­pitz gam­bled on re­search by Mi­chio Hi­ra­no of Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Irv­ing Med­ical Cen­ter and Ra­mon Martí at Barcelona’s Vall d’He­bron Re­search In­sti­tute. They came up with MT1621, the lead drug for thymi­dine ki­nase 2 de­fi­cien­cy (TK2d). 

The VC is shar­ing the wealth with the rest of the syn­di­cate, which in­cludes Or­biMed, Ac­eras Life Sci­ences and Os­age Uni­ver­si­ty Part­ners.

While they were dis­cussing an­i­mal da­ta for the launch round, the drug has since com­plet­ed a Phase II piv­otal pro­gram in 38 pa­tients. Modis re­ports a strong p val­ue (0.004) in sur­vival, com­par­ing their da­ta to a his­tor­i­cal con­trol group. And Modis is al­so boast­ing about hit­ting key goals for “func­tion­al abil­i­ties, in some cas­es re-ac­quir­ing pre­vi­ous­ly lost mo­tor mile­stones.”

Ra­mon Martí VHIR

In re­cent months the biotech al­so picked up break­through sta­tus at the FDA and PRIME sta­tus at the EMA, en­cour­ag­ing plans for a quick di­a­logue with the FDA.

The ther­a­py is not free of safe­ty pit­falls, though.

Modis ex­ecs say that 2 adult-on­set pa­tients “stopped treat­ment due to asymp­to­matic in­creas­es in amino­trans­feras­es, with­out in­creas­es in biliru­bin, which re­solved up­on dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of treat­ment.”

It’s all in Zo­genix’s hands now.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Mer­ck helps bankroll new part­ner Themis' game plan to fin­ish the chikun­gun­ya race and be­gin on­colyt­ic virus quest

As Themis gears up for a Phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, the Vienna-based biotech has closed out €40 million ($44 million) to foot the clinical and manufacturing bills.

Its heavyweight partners at Merck — which signed a pact around a mysterious “blockbuster indication” last month — jumped into the Series D, led by new investors Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Adjuvant Capital also joined, as did current investors Global Health Investment Fund, aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.