Deals

Is biopharma’s Midas man Vivek Ramaswamy building a new IPO vehicle with Dermavant deal?

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy

One of Vivek Ramaswamy’s fledgling, pre-IPO “vant” companies has swung another in-licensing deal to beef up its pipeline.

Dermavant Sciences, a subsidiary of Roivant, turned to a struggling Portola $PTLA to bag the topical rights to a Syk/JAK inhibitor dubbed cerdulatinib, which is currently in a Phase IIa trial for treatment-resistant cases of B-cell malignancies.

Dermavant is taking the therapy in a different, distinctly non-cancer direction, using it to tamp down on inflammatory skin conditions. Dermavant is already at work on atopic dermatitis, advancing a PDE4 inhibitor Roivant in-licensed from Eisai last November.

All these deals fit right into Ramaswamy’s sweet spot: Drugs that have been tested in the clinic but were either cast away or no longer a focus of the company that owned the original rights. Like many of these new deals at Roivant companies, no terms were announced. Ramaswamy typically gets these drugs for little more than an equity stake and a few million dollars at most.

But rather than present itself as a bottom feeder looking for cheap ways to fatten up a pipeline, Ramaswamy has presented the strategy as an Uber-level disruption in biopharma, slashing development costs and speeding timelines for major new drugs that he had tapped for their paradigm-busting potential. And while he hasn’t actually produced any marketable drugs yet, investors have bought into two of his companies — Axovant and Myovant — in a pair of IPOs that raised more than half a billion dollars.

Part of that process has called for a handful of top staffers, and Dermavant just added a CMO to its group. Could another IPO be far behind?

“The addition of cerdulatinib to our pipeline renders Dermavant an emerging leader in medical dermatology,” said Jim Lee, MD, PhD, the newly-appointed Chief Medical Officer of Dermavant. “Given the anti-inflammatory properties associated with both JAK and Syk inhibition we look forward to advancing the clinical development of cerdulatinib as a potential therapy for a number of dermatologic conditions with significant unmet need.”


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