In knock­out IPO of­fer­ings, Mor­phoSys and Sur­face On­col­o­gy haul com­bined $316M in up­sized deals

Two biotechs new to Nas­daq sparked more in­vestor in­ter­est than orig­i­nal­ly ex­pect­ed Wednes­day, haul­ing up­sized IPOs that are yet an­oth­er in­di­ca­tion of the in­dus­try’s rip-roar­ing state.

In one of the chunki­er IPOs this year, Ger­many’s Mor­phoSys $MOR raised up­wards of $207.8 mil­lion. That’s near­ly $58 mil­lion more than the com­pa­ny’s ear­ly ex­pec­ta­tions. The com­pa­ny, which is al­so list­ed on a Ger­man ex­change, says it’s gath­er­ing re­sources to sink $225 mil­lion in­to the de­vel­op­ment of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al an­ti-CD19 an­ti­body MOR208.

The com­pa­ny has plans to seize a quick OK of MOR208, a drug it’s de­vel­op­ing for dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma (DL­B­CL) and a pop­u­lar dis­ease tar­get in on­col­o­gy. Af­ter its last batch of up­beat da­ta from a Phase II study, Mor­phoSys, which al­ready re­ceived break­through sta­tus for the drug, said it went straight to reg­u­la­tors hop­ing for ear­ly ap­proval.

Mor­phoSys, which brought in $83 mil­lion in rev­enue last year and al­ready had a good bit of cash in the bank pre-IPO, said it will spend an ad­di­tion­al $90 mil­lion to build out its com­mer­cial in­fra­struc­ture so it can han­dle MOR208’s launch.

Mor­phoSys was joined in IPO glo­ry by yet an­oth­er can­cer drug­mak­er, Sur­face On­col­o­gy. The start­up, found­ed in 2014, had filed an S-1 back in March sig­nal­ing a $75 mil­lion IPO was in the works. But when the com­pa­ny priced its of­fer­ing Wednes­day, that fig­ure leaped to $108 mil­lion. The com­pa­ny will list un­der the tick­er $SURF on the Nas­daq.

On top of the IPO pro­ceeds, Sur­face raised an ad­di­tion­al $11.5 mil­lion through the sale of 766,666 shares to No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­med­ical Re­search at the IPO price. No­var­tis has been in­volved with Sur­face since its ear­ly days and was among the in­vestors in the com­pa­ny’s Se­ries A round in 2015.

The Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech has at­tract­ed con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion for its work in the in­tense­ly com­pet­i­tive field of tu­mor mi­croen­vi­ron­ment en­gi­neer­ing. Sur­face is one of a myr­i­ad of star­tups look­ing to add some ad­di­tion­al fire­pow­er that can ei­ther take the brakes off of an im­mune as­sault or bring in ad­di­tion­al weapons to take down can­cer cells. In their case, the key fo­cus is on coun­ter­ing im­muno­sup­pres­sion.

In par­tic­u­lar, Sur­face de­vel­ops drugs to block an un­usu­al­ly abun­dant pro­tein on the sur­face of tu­mors called CD47, which helps tu­mors fight off at­tack from im­mune cells. In pre­clin­i­cal re­search, Sur­face re­port­ed that cer­tain im­mune cells showed greater tu­mor-killing pow­er in the drug’s pres­ence.

The com­pa­ny’s IPO pro­ceeds will fi­nance its Phase I drug pro­gram SRF231, which is be­ing test­ed in pa­tients with mul­ti­ple tu­mor types. Sur­face says in its S-1 fil­ing that it plans to test the drug as a so­lo ther­a­py and along with FDA-ap­proved can­cer drugs in a com­bo treat­ment.

The burst of in­vest­ment in im­muno-on­col­o­gy has left Sur­face with a long ros­ter of ri­vals. For CD47 alone, com­peti­tors in­clude Alexo Ther­a­peu­tics, Arch On­col­o­gy, Au­ri­gene, Blink Bio­med­ical, Cel­gene, Forty Sev­en, Novim­mune, OSE Im­munother­a­peu­tics, Sor­ren­to, Syn­thon Hold­ing and Tril­li­um Ther­a­peu­tics.

Sur­face ex­pects to re­port ini­tial re­sults from its Phase I study in the first half of next year.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $800 million.

Patrick Soon-Shiong at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jan. 13, 2020 (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter falling be­hind the lead­ers, dissed by some ex­perts, biotech show­man Patrick Soon-Sh­iong fi­nal­ly gets his Covid-19 vac­cine ready for a tri­al. But can it live up to the hype?

In January, when dozens of scientists rushed to start making a vaccine for the then-novel coronavirus, they were joined by an unlikely compatriot: Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire doctor most famous for making big, controversial promises on cancer research.

Soon-Shiong had spent the last 4 years on his “Cancer Moonshot,” but part of his project meant buying a small Seattle biotech that specialized in making common-cold vectors, called adenoviruses, to train the immune system. The billionaire had been using those vectors for oncology, but the company had also developed vaccine candidates for H1N1, Lassa fever and other viruses. When the outbreak began, he pivoted.

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Jude Samulski, Marianne De Backer

Bay­er buys a biotech ‘race horse’ with a $4B deal — $2B in cash — aimed at go­ing big in­to gene ther­a­py

In the latest sign that Big Pharma wants a leading place in the push to develop a new generation of cell and gene therapies, Bayer is stepping up today with a $2 billion cash deal to buy out one of the fast-moving pioneers in the field, while adding up to $2 billion more in milestones if the new pharma subsidiary can deliver the goods.

As part of a continuing series of deals engineered by Bayer BD chief Marianne De Backer, the pharma player has snapped up Asklepios, more commonly referred to in more casual fashion as AskBio. And they are paying top dollar for a Research Triangle Park-based company that raised $225 million a little more than a year ago to back the brainchild of Jude Samulski, the gene therapy pioneer out of the University of North Carolina Gene Therapy Center.

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En­her­tu picks up an­oth­er win for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi Sankyo, join­ing the pri­or­i­ty re­view lane for gas­tric can­cer

Five months after Enhertu received twin breakthrough therapy designations, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo are one step closer to nabbing another approval for their potential blockbuster drug.

The companies announced Wednesday morning that their billion-dollar antibody-drug conjugate has received priority review for HER2 positive metastatic gastric cancer. Already approved in the US for third-line metastatic breast cancer patients that are HER2 positive, Enhertu’s gastric cancer PDUFA date is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

Sci­en­tists warn Amer­i­cans are ex­pect­ing too much from a coro­n­avirus vac­cine

The White House and many Americans have pinned their hopes for defeating the Covid-19 pandemic on a vaccine being developed at “warp speed.” But some scientific experts warn they’re all expecting too much, too soon.

“Everyone thinks COVID-19 will go away with a vaccine,” said William Haseltine, chair and president of Access Health International, a foundation that advocates for affordable care.

No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan signs off on a $231M deal to try some­thing new in the R&D fight against SARS-CoV-2

Patrick Amstutz was baptized by pandemic fire early on.

He and colleagues attended the notorious Cowen conference in early March that included some of the top Biogen execs who helped trigger a superspreader event in Boston. Heading back to his post as CEO of Molecular Partners in Switzerland, the outbreak was sweeping through Italy, triggering near panic in some quarters and creeping into the voices of people he knew, including one friend on the Italian side of the country.

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Cedric Francois, Apellis CEO (Optum via YouTube)

UP­DAT­ED: So­bi bets $250M cash, about $1B in mile­stones for rights to a C3 ther­a­py be­ing pushed through 5 piv­otal tri­als

A couple years after licensing Novimmune’s emapalumab and turning around a quick FDA OK, Stockholm-based Sobi is betting up to $1.2 billion for rights to another rare disease drug.

The company is shelling out $250 million upfront and adding up to $915 million in milestones for rights to develop and commercialize Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ drug pegcetacoplan outside the US. Together, the companies will see the systemic C3 therapy through five registrational trials in hematology, nephrology and neurology.

Christian Rommel (via Roche)

Bay­er fol­lows R&D deal spree by raid­ing Roche's can­cer group for its new re­search chief

The day after Bayer signed off on a $4 billion deal designed to put the company among the leaders in gene therapy development, the pharma giant has recruited a new chief for its R&D division. And they opted for an expert in the cancer field.

Christian Rommel, Roche’s head of discovery and early-stage oncology development, has been tapped to take over the job. Joerg Moeller, who got the top research post after early- and late-stage development roles were combined 2 years ago, is hitting the exit “to pursue other career opportunities.”

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Albert Bourla, AP

UP­DAT­ED: Where's the Pfiz­er ef­fi­ca­cy read­out? CEO Bourla says 'soon,' but you're go­ing to have to wait for it

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had promised repeatedly that the pharma giant would know if its leading Covid-19 vaccine is effective by the end of this month — now just a few days away.

Instead, the company reported early Tuesday that it has yet to conduct any interim efficacy analyses. And it won’t now until sometime next month.

The news was included in a slide for their Q3 report.

In the morning Q3 call with analysts, Bourla says that they expect efficacy data “soon,” but noted that they wouldn’t be able to say anything until all the administrative work was done on the interim, which would take about a week. And he added that Pfizer isn’t going to say anything else about that hot topic until they have the data in hand.

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