From din­ner in Mu­nich to $5.85 a share, Im­mune De­sign ex­ecs pushed for every pen­ny they could get from the Mer­ck bar­gain buy­out

Car­los Paya

Oc­to­ber 11, 2018 was Black Thurs­day at Im­mune De­sign $IMDZ. That’s when the com­pa­ny broad­cast that its lead pro­gram for CMB305 com­bined with Roche’s Tecen­triq was a bust in re­lapsed syn­ovial sar­co­ma. CEO Car­los Paya then shift­ed fo­cus to G100 and slashed the staff by 20% as its stock plunged 34%. Shares closed at $1.85.

Days lat­er, dur­ing a din­ner meet­ing in Mu­nich while at­tend­ing ES­MO, a “se­nior ex­ec­u­tive” at Mer­ck — who had been col­lab­o­rat­ing with Im­mune De­sign for the last 3 years on Keytru­da — said the phar­ma gi­ant $MRK was in­ter­est­ed in switch­ing from li­cens­ing talks to buy­ing the bat­tered com­pa­ny out­right.

Paya’s im­me­di­ate an­swer: The com­pa­ny isn’t for sale — at least not at any­thing like the cur­rent stock price.

That was the be­gin­ning of a lengthy se­ries of back-and-forth bids and par­ries. With its share price on the ropes, the biotech steered away from 2 CVRs worth up to $85 mil­lion each, along with the ini­tial bid of $200 mil­lion in cash. 

Stephen Brady

The M&A deal for Im­mune De­sign is at the op­po­site end of a spec­trum lit up by block­buster deals for the likes of Kite or Loxo and AveX­is. There were no vast rich­es be­stowed on suc­cess­ful com­pa­ny ex­ecs. But at a time when a lot of biotechs are liv­ing with de­pressed share val­ues, it’s like­ly we’ll be see­ing more of these deals — based on terms like the un­pop­u­lar CVR, suc­cess­ful­ly pushed in the Cel­gene buy­out — as the ma­jor play­ers gear up with new ac­qui­si­tions.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give away the store.

Over 4 months of talks — while Im­mune De­sign was try­ing, un­suc­cess­ful­ly, to spark some out­side bids among a slate of prospects — Mer­ck and the lit­tle biotech grad­u­al­ly came to $5.85 per share as a win­ning bid. And it came down to pen­nies, with Im­mune De­sign push­ing for an ex­tra nick­el at the end — even as Mer­ck was ready to call their high­est, best of­fer. Dur­ing that stretch, Im­mune De­sign’s own self-as­sess­ment spurred the board to low­er the prob­a­bil­i­ty of suc­cess for G100 in fol­lic­u­lar lym­phoma as it re­viewed its prospec­tive in­de­pen­dent fu­ture by the num­bers.

Jan ter Meulen

Cu­ri­ous­ly, the com­pa­ny’s SEC fil­ing on the ne­go­ti­a­tions avoids men­tion­ing which se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at Mer­ck were in­volved in the talks. The phar­ma gi­ant rarely shows its hand and clear­ly want­ed to keep as much of this be­hind closed doors as pos­si­ble.

Paya him­self comes away with a ter­mi­na­tion pack­age of $4,033,298, in­clud­ing $1.4 mil­lion for sev­er­ance. EVP of strat­e­gy and fi­nance Stephen Brady gets a pack­age worth $2.1 mil­lion. CSO Jan ter Meulen gets $1.9 mil­lion and CMO Sergey Yurasov slips in at $1.8 mil­lion.

Those num­bers won’t win any records, but af­ter the year that Im­mune De­sign has had, they’ll take it.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

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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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Len Schleifer (left) and George Yancopoulos, Regeneron (Vimeo)

Eyes on he­mo­phil­ia prize, Re­gen­eron adds a $100M wa­ger on joint de­vel­op­ment cam­paign with In­tel­lia

When George Yancopoulos first signed up Intellia to be its CRISPR/Cas9 partner on gene editing projects 4 years ago, the upstart smartly ramped up its IPO at the same time. Today, Regeneron $REGN is coming back in, adding $100 million in an upfront fee and equity to significantly boot up a whole roster of new development projects.

And they’re highlighting some clinical hemophilia research plans in the process.

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Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but which subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).

Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”