In the wake of a drub­bing, Vivek Ra­maswamy gam­bles $116M on Ar­bu­tus’ hep B work

Over the last few weeks Ar­bu­tus $ABUS has shared a pos­i­tive snap­shot of da­ta from a mid-stage study of its he­pati­tis B ther­a­py and en­joyed a boost from Al­ny­lam’s big suc­cess with its late-stage study of patisir­an, an RNAi drug that us­es its de­liv­ery tech­nol­o­gy and may well spawn a roy­al­ty flow for the biotech. And to­day it’s adding to the streak of good news with the an­nounce­ment that Roivant’s Vivek Ra­maswamy — al­ready an in­vestor — is buy­ing deep­er in­to the com­pa­ny, in­vest­ing $116.4 mil­lion at a pre­mi­um rate to ac­quire pre­ferred shares in Ar­bu­tus.

The way Roivant makes this buy-in sound, the two com­pa­nies have been ham­mer­ing out a part­ner­ship in which Ra­maswamy’s com­pa­ny will col­lab­o­rate on the de­vel­op­ment of the he­pati­tis B pro­gram. But it’s still a bit vague what all that may en­tail.

The 32-year-old Ra­maswamy said in a state­ment that the al­liance leaves Roivant “pro­vid­ing strate­gic and op­er­a­tional sup­port to Ar­bu­tus, while al­so max­i­miz­ing the val­ue of Ar­bu­tus’ oth­er as­sets, in­clud­ing through po­ten­tial ad­di­tion­al in­vest­ment where re­quired.”

The “Vant” Squad from left to right: David Hung, Jack­ie Fouse, Vivek Ra­maswamy, Lynn Seely, and Alvin Shih. File Pho­to

Ra­maswamy is pay­ing $7.13 a share, a 15% pre­mi­um from Fri­day’s close, for the new stake.

In­vestors loved it, dri­ving up the stock by 16%.

Ra­maswamy — who saw the stock in his orig­i­nal port­fo­lio com­pa­ny Ax­o­vant $AX­ON crushed days ago on the de­ci­sive fail­ure of its Phase III Alzheimer’s drug — has raised close to $2 bil­lion. Most of that cash has been re­served for its sub­sidiary com­pa­nies, a grow­ing mix of pub­lic and pri­vate biotech ven­tures with a broad ar­ray of drugs and dis­ease tar­gets.

Ar­bu­tus — for­mer­ly called Tek­mi­ra, which piv­ot­ed away from Ebo­la and in­to hep B two years ago with the ac­qui­si­tion of On­Core from a group of Phar­mas­set vets — picked up a pos­i­tive snap­shot of bio­mark­er ac­tiv­i­ty for ARB-1467, re­port­ing a week ago that one co­hort of 12 pa­tients demon­strat­ed a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in serum HB­sAg lev­els for sev­er­al of those pa­tients giv­en bi-week­ly dos­ing. Re­searchers plan to use that de­sign in a pos­si­bly piv­otal study to launch in Q4.

Both ARB-1467 and Al­ny­lam’s patisir­an — the first RNAi ther­a­py to pass a Phase III test — use Ar­bu­tus’ nanopar­ti­cle de­liv­ery tech.

This is not one of Ra­maswamy’s clas­sic plays. His whole strat­e­gy cen­ters on res­cu­ing clin­i­cal-stage as­sets lan­guish­ing in the pipelines of the world’s biggest bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies and putting them through an ef­fi­cient late-stage ef­fort, ramp­ing up new drug prod­ucts bet­ter than any of the ma­jors. His first ef­fort at that, with a 5HT6 Alzheimer’s drug, proved a com­plete fail­ure.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ra­maswamy and Ar­bu­tus goes back some time. Forbes’ Matthew Her­p­er and Nathan Var­di re­port­ed two years ago — as Ra­maswamy was just get­ting start­ed in biotech in a big way — that the for­mer hedge fund play­er had “turned an $8 mil­lion pur­chase of sev­er­al drugs to treat the liv­er virus he­pati­tis B in­to a $110 mil­lion stake in Ar­bu­tus Bio­Phar­ma, a 1,275% pa­per re­turn.”

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Amid mon­key­pox fears, biotechs spring to ac­tion; Mod­er­na’s CFO trou­ble; Cuts, cuts every­where; Craft­ing the right pro­teins; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

It’s always a bittersweet moment saying goodbye, but as Josh Sullivan goes off to new adventures we are grateful for the way he’s built up the Endpoints Manufacturing section — which the rest of the team will now carry forward. If you’re not already, this may be a good time to sign up for your weekly dose of drug manufacturing news. Thank you for reading and wish you a restful weekend.

Bay­er sounds re­treat from a $670 mil­lion CAR-T pact in the wake of a pa­tient death

Two months after Atara Biotherapeutics hit the hold button on its lead CAR-T 2.0 therapy following a patient death, putting the company under the watchful eye of the FDA, its Big Pharma partners at Bayer are bowing out of a $670 million global alliance. And the move is forcing a revamp of Atara’s pipeline plans, even as research execs vow to continue work on the two drugs allied with Bayer 18 months ago, which delivered a $60 million cash upfront.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sanofi and Re­gen­eron clear the fin­ish line in an in­flam­ma­to­ry esoph­a­gus dis­ease, leav­ing Take­da in the dust

With atopic dermatitis rivals breathing down Dupixent’s neck, Sanofi and Regeneron on Friday secured a first win in new territory in what Sanofi’s head of immunology and inflammation Naimish Patel called the fastest approval he’s ever seen.

The FDA approved Dupixent on Friday to treat patients 12 years and older with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an inflammatory condition that causes swelling and scarring of the esophagus. The approval came just a couple months after regulators granted Dupixent priority review, and months ahead of its PDUFA date on Aug. 3.

Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues its biotech build­ing spree with new fa­cil­i­ty in Chi­na

A Japanese conglomerate is making a big play in China with the opening of a new facility, as it continues to expand.

Fujifilm Irvine Scientific has opened its new Innovation and Collaboration Center in Suzhou New District, China, an area in Jiangsu province specifically designated for technological and industrial development.

According to Fujifilm, the 12,000-square-foot site will be responsible for the company’s cell culture media optimization, analysis and design services. Cell culture media itself often requires customization of formulas and protocols to achieve the desired quantity and quality of therapeutic desired. Fujifilm Irvine Scientific is offering these services from its headquarters in California and Japan to its customers globally, as well as in China now.

Rob Etherington, Clene CEO

Mary­land of­fers loan to Clene de­spite ALS tri­al bumps

Even after Utah-based Clene failed to hit its primary endpoints for its ALS drug last year, the state of Maryland is putting its money at least behind Clene’s manufacturing facility.

The Maryland Board of Public Works has finalized a $3 million, 60-month loan facility with Clene Nanomedicine. The loan was provided by the state’s Neighborhood BusinessWorks program within the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Armon Sharei, SQZ founder and CEO

SQZ's out­side-the-box man­u­fac­tur­ing method slash­es pro­duc­tion time in ear­ly in study

At ASCO 2021 in June of last year, SQZ Biotech showcased a glimpse of its unorthodox cell therapy manufacturing tech. And on Wednesday, the Watertown, MA, company announced that its first-generation system showed comparable or better performance than a conventional clean-room-based manufacturing process.

The study was non-clinical. Clinical trials are expected by the first half of 2023.

SQZ’s device opens up a temporary window by cell-squeezing to deliver cargoes into cells. Its average processing time was less than six hours per batch, which is more than half the time than conventional methods. The company is planning to use the technology in its first red blood cell derived program for celiac disease. That IND is set to be submitted in the first half of 2023, the company said.

Bobby Sheng, Bora Pharmaceuticals CEO

With new ac­qui­si­tion, Bo­ra to ven­ture in­to bi­o­log­ics

Last week, Taiwan-based CDMO Bora Pharmaceuticals announced that it acquired Eden Biologics. Now, it says that purchase has helped established Bora Biologics, expanding into the biopharmaceutical market.

The acquisition of the company’s assets, which are located in the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park in Taiwan, is helping Bora build its presence in the biopharma world by expanding production capacity of cell lines for the production of protein drugs. It will also improve the quality control and inspection specifications, as well as cell bank generation. The facility has four 500-liter bioreactors that have been approved by European and Taiwanese regulators.

Paul Chaplin, Bavarian Nordic president and CEO

With mon­key­pox cas­es ris­ing, one Eu­ro­pean coun­try is lock­ing down a small­pox vac­cine con­tract

As the global number of confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases continues to slowly climb, one country is trying to get a head start on potential vaccine stocking.

Bavarian Nordic signed a contract with an undisclosed European nation to supply its smallpox vaccine in response to new cases this month, the company announced Thursday morning. The continent saw its first monkeypox case confirmed about two weeks ago, with both the UK and Portugal seeing cases, according to the Washington Post.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 142,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.