Barbara Weber, Tango Therapeutics CEO (Tango)

It takes two to Tan­go: The biotech us­ing CRISPR to dis­cov­er new can­cer gene tar­gets rides a $353M SPAC deal to Nas­daq

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The lat­est biotech-SPAC deal has ar­rived, and it’s danc­ing its way to Nas­daq to the tune of sev­er­al hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars.

Tan­go Ther­a­peu­tics and its CRISPR-fo­cused search for new can­cer genes is re­verse merg­ing with Box­er Cap­i­tal’s blank-check com­pa­ny, the biotech an­nounced Wednes­day morn­ing. With a spot­light on three lead pro­grams, Tan­go ex­pects to­tal pro­ceeds to equal about $353 mil­lion in the deal, which in­cludes the rough­ly $167 mil­lion held in the SPAC and an ad­di­tion­al $186 mil­lion in PIPE fi­nanc­ing.

CEO Bar­bara We­ber told End­points News that Tan­go had been plan­ning for a tra­di­tion­al IPO at some point this year, hav­ing re­cent­ly fin­ished non-deal road­shows with about 30 to 40 in­vestors. But they shift­ed gears when Box­er, who had pre­vi­ous­ly led the com­pa­ny’s Se­ries B in April 2020, ap­proached Tan­go ex­ecs with the SPAC idea.

“When we looked at the in­vestors that were in the SPAC, they were the same list of peo­ple that we had just spent two months talk­ing to,” We­ber told End­points. “We ac­tu­al­ly didn’t look at any oth­er SPACs; this was a spe­cif­ic de­ci­sion around the Box­er-spon­sored SPAC.”

Blank check com­pa­nies have tak­en Wall Street by storm, and the bio­phar­ma sec­tor has not been left out of the fun. Per an End­points News tal­ly, Tan­go is the fifth life sci­ences com­pa­ny to ride a SPAC to Nas­daq this year, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of 23andMe, Se­ma4, So­ma­Log­ic and Bet­ter Ther­a­peu­tics.

That’s brought in a hefty heap­ing of cash for these fa­bled five, with the group net­ting a com­bined $2.67 bil­lion — or more than half the to­tal raised by the 30 biotechs that went pub­lic through the usu­al IPO in 2021.

And there’s plen­ty more mon­ey wait­ing in the wings. Since the start of this year alone, an­oth­er 31 SPACs have launched and have yet to find a part­ner. This group has a com­bined $7.8 bil­lion wait­ing in their shell ac­counts and in­cludes SPACs from promi­nent in­vestors such as Fore­site, Per­cep­tive, Ed­uar­do Bra­vo and Vin­od Khosla, the lat­ter of whom launched three.

The blank-check com­pa­nies can take up to two years to find a part­ner, and some an­a­lysts have sig­naled an on­com­ing glut giv­en the sheer amount of SPACs go­ing pub­lic over the last sev­er­al months. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from SPACIn­sid­er, there have been 308 SPACs in 2021 al­ready, sur­pass­ing the amount from the last two years, when 2020 saw 248 and 2019 had 57.

For Tan­go, though, that means they can con­tin­ue push­ing their CRISPR-based ap­proach to find­ing new tar­get­ed can­cer drugs. The biotech takes ad­van­tage of CRISPR as a re­search tool, us­ing it to dis­cov­er gene pair tar­gets that cre­ate unique vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in can­cer cells. It’s sim­i­lar to the un­der­ly­ing the­o­ry be­hind PARP in­hibitors — drugs that go af­ter a pro­tein in pa­tients with a mu­ta­tion on one of the pro­teins used to re­pair DNA.

When us­ing CRISPR to knock out genes, Tan­go re­searchers look for those that when knocked out lead to cell death in a con­cept known as syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty. These genes then serve as po­ten­tial tar­gets. Though this process had been the­o­rized for years, it wasn’t un­til CRISPR came along in the last decade that it be­came pos­si­ble to do with pre­ci­sion, We­ber said.

The biotech has three pro­grams it in­tends to ad­vance with Wednes­day’s funds, look­ing to file INDs in each of the next three years. First up is TNG908, an MTA-co­op­er­a­tive PRMT5 in­hibitor, ex­pect­ed in the fourth quar­ter of 2021. We­ber said the mon­ey will help gen­er­ate proof-of-con­cept da­ta for the can­di­date in dif­fer­ent tu­mor types.

There’s al­so a USP1 in­hibitor ex­pect­ed in 2022 and an undis­closed tar­get ex­pect­ed in 2023, both of which are ex­pect­ed to hit the clin­ic thanks to the run­way from these funds. The for­mer is look­ing at the treat­ment of BR­CA1-mu­tant breast, ovar­i­an and prostate can­cer, while the lat­ter is go­ing af­ter STK11-mu­tant lung can­cer.

With the tran­si­tion to be­com­ing a pub­lic com­pa­ny now un­der­way, We­ber said the next steps are to keep plug­ging away at their re­search. She’s promis­ing much more dis­cov­ery work com­ing up be­hind the three lead pro­grams.

“We are dis­cov­er­ing three to four [new] tar­gets a year, so we hope to in the fu­ture con­tin­ue to be ad­vanc­ing an IND for a new mol­e­cule, a new tar­get, every 12 to 18 months for the fore­see­able fu­ture,” We­ber said.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

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In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Gerry Brunk (Lumira)

What will Lu­mi­ra Ven­tures do with $220M? Stay out of the com­fort zone and off the beat­en biotech path

Lumira Ventures closed its largest fund on Monday, raking in $220 million to pump into the life sciences — but instead of targeting biotech hubs like San Francisco and Boston, the company is rolling the dice on “underserved geographies” in the US and Canada.

“We find oftentimes companies located in places like Montreal, or Fort Lauderdale, FL, or Kansas City or Phoenix, AZ just have more capital efficiency and better valuations, without having to compromise anything at all in the quality of the innovation and the management talent,” co-founder and managing partner Gerry Brunk told Endpoints News.