BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin (File photo)

Hong Kong strife holds up al­most $100M of BioN­Tech's Se­ries B haul

Late on Mon­day, it was re­vealed that Ger­man can­cer drug de­vel­op­er BioN­Tech is eye­ing a $100 mil­lion pub­lic list­ing in the Unit­ed States, two months af­ter the can­cer-fo­cused com­pa­ny un­veiled a her­culean $325 mil­lion in an up­sized round of fi­nanc­ing.

In the IPO fil­ing, how­ev­er, the Mainz-based drug de­vel­op­er re­vealed that shares worth about $97 mil­lion that were ex­pect­ed to be bought by an undis­closed Hong Kong-based in­vestor have been de­layed, in part due to the po­lit­i­cal un­rest in Hong Kong and the on­go­ing trade dis­pute be­tween the Unit­ed States and Chi­na.

“(T)he pay­ment may be in­def­i­nite­ly de­layed, or po­ten­tial­ly not re­ceived at all. In the event that this in­vestor is not able to fund the pur­chase of the shares and we do not make al­ter­na­tive arrange­ments for the pur­chase of the shares, we may de­mand that the shares be trans­ferred back to us for no con­sid­er­a­tion. We in­tend to make use of this right in case the funds have not been paid by the an­tic­i­pat­ed pub­lic of­fer­ing,” the fil­ing said.

The trade ten­sion be­tween Chi­na and the Unit­ed States has re­ver­ber­at­ed in the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try.

Last year the Com­mit­tee on For­eign In­vest­ment in the Unit­ed States (CFIUS) — a fed­er­al in­ter­a­gency com­mit­tee chaired by the US Trea­sury De­part­ment — ex­pand­ed its re­view of for­eign in­vest­ment in the biotech­nol­o­gy sec­tor, cit­ing na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty rea­sons, trig­ger­ing con­cern that US biotechs may have trou­ble ac­cess­ing Chi­nese mon­ey.

And in re­cent months, MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter sanc­tioned five of its own re­searchers — three of whom were eth­ni­cal­ly Chi­nese — for pur­port­ed­ly vi­o­lat­ing con­flict of in­ter­est poli­cies, al­leg­ing ‘for­eign in­flu­ence’, af­ter the NIH re­quest­ed the in­sti­tu­tion in­ves­ti­gate their con­duct.

BioN­Tech’s Ju­ly round of Se­ries B fundrais­ing — mark­ing one of the largest sin­gle pri­vate fund­ing rounds for a Eu­ro­pean biotech — was up­sized and led by Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search. New and ex­ist­ing in­vestors par­tic­i­pat­ed, in­clud­ing Red­mile Group, In­vus, Mi­rae­As­set Fi­nan­cial Group, Plat­inum As­set Man­age­ment, Jeb­sen Cap­i­tal, Steam Athena Cap­i­tal, BVCF Man­age­ment and the Stru­eng­mann Fam­i­ly Of­fice. Two-thirds of the fund­ing came from new in­vestors, BioN­Tech said.

Jeb­sen Group, the par­ent com­pa­ny of Jeb­sen Cap­i­tal, is based in Hong Kong. BVCF Man­age­ment says it was found­ed as Chi­na’s first US dol­lar fund.

Found­ed in 2008, BioN­Tech counts the Strüng­mann group, a fam­i­ly firm led by Ger­man bil­lion­aires and iden­ti­cal twins Thomas and An­dreas Strüng­mann, as its largest share­hold­ers and the source of BioN­Tech’s ini­tial seed cap­i­tal.

Most of BioN­Tech’s clin­i­cal as­sets are mes­sen­ger RNA ther­a­pies (mR­NA), a fam­i­ly of treat­ments in which a nat­ur­al sys­tem is har­nessed to send the body a sig­nal to pro­duce its own drug — in this case, to fight can­cer. The com­pa­ny al­so has cell ther­a­pies and an­ti­bod­ies in its ar­se­nal. Al­to­geth­er, the com­pa­ny has 20 prod­uct can­di­dates, of which eight have en­tered in­to nine on­go­ing clin­i­cal tri­als. BioN­Tech’s com­peti­tors, such as Cure­Vac and the uni­corn Mod­er­na $MR­NA — which re­cent­ly pulled off a his­toric $604 mil­lion US IPO — are square­ly fo­cused on mR­NA.

Hel­mut Jeg­gle, who is re­spon­si­ble for the life sci­ence ini­tia­tives of the Strüng­mann broth­ers, holds about 50.35% of BioN­Tech’s shares, while the com­pa­ny’s CEO Ugur Sahin has a 18.80% stake.

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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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.

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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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.