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.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

$DNA is once again on NYSE; FDA clears Soliris chal­lenger for the mar­ket; Flag­ship’s think­ing big again with eR­NA; 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.

I still remember the uncertainty in the air last year when nobody was sure whether ASCO would cancel their in-person meeting. But it’s now back again for the second virtual conference, and Endpoints News is here for it. Check out our 2-day event reviewing the landscape of cancer R&D and send news our way.

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Michael Dell (Richard Drew, AP Images)

'Dude, you're get­ting a Del­l' — as a new deep-pock­et biotech in­vestor

What happens when you marry longtime insiders in the global biotech VC game with the family fund of tech billionaire Michael Dell, a synthetic biology legend out of MIT and Harvard and the former director of the NCI?

Today, the answer is a newly financed, $200 million biotech SPAC now cruising the industry for a top player interested in finding a short cut to Nasdaq.

Orion Biotech Opportunities priced their blank check company today, raising $200 million with Dell’s multibillion-dollar MSD group’s commitment on investing another $20 million in a forward-purchase agreement.

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Gene ther­a­py from Bio­gen's $800M buy­out flops in mid-stage study, deal­ing blow to new am­bi­tions

The #2 candidate from Biogen’s $800 million ocular gene therapy buyout has failed in a mid-stage trial, dealing an early blow to the big biotech’s plans to revitalize its pipeline with new technologies.

Biogen announced that the candidate, an experimental treatment for a rare and progressive form of blindness called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), failed to sufficiently improve vision in patients’ treated eye — patients only received an injection in one eye — after a year, on a standard scale, compared to their untreated eye. The company said they saw “positive trends” on several secondary endpoints, including visual acuity, but declined to say whether the trial actually hit any of those endpoints.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis whiffs on En­tresto study af­ter heart at­tacks — but that does­n't mean it's go­ing down qui­et­ly

If Novartis learned one thing from its interaction with the FDA over its latest heart failure approval for Entresto, it was that missing a primary endpoint may not be the nail in the coffin. Now, Entresto has missed again on a late-stage study in high-risk heart patients, and it’s already sowing the seeds for a path forward regardless.

Novartis’ Entresto couldn’t best standard-of-care ramipril in staving off a composite of deaths and heart failure events in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or pulmonary congestion who have had a prior heart attack, according to topline data from the Phase III PARADISE-MI study revealed Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

Jason Kelly (Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gink­go nabs $DNA, biotech's most sought af­ter tick­er, for free in sweet­en­er from NYSE

When Ginkgo went comparison shopping for a financial market to list their now $15 billion company, the New York Stock Exchange had a back-pocket sweetener the Nasdaq couldn’t offer: The most sought-after ticker in biotech, $DNA.

DNA — the most famous three letters in biology and the ticker for the world’s first biotech, Genentech, from 1999 until it was bought out by Roche for $48 billion in 2009 — will now be the ticker for Ginkgo, a 12-year-old synthetic biology startup with grand ambitions to change not only how drugs, but also everyday products like meat and perfumes, are made.

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Lark­spur Health Ac­qui­si­tion files to go pub­lic as this year's SPAC flood surges over $14B

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Another day, another SPAC vying for a spot on Nasdaq.

On Wednesday, OncoSec Medical CEO Daniel O’Connor filed the S-1 paperwork for a new blank-check company he’s leading called Larkspur Health Acquisition. The former Advaxis chief penciled in a $75 million raise, with plans to offer 7.5 million shares at $10 apiece.

BAR­DA slows its $9B en­gine for new Covid-19 ther­a­peu­tics

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is cooling its jets in looking for new, potential Covid-19 treatments, at least in the near term.

An HHS spokesperson told Endpoints News via email, “to date, BARDA has obligated more than $9 billion for the development and/or purchase of 13 therapeutics, beginning in February 2020 with support to develop Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapeutic. Therapeutics are an important element of the COVID-19 response, and we are focused on the programs currently underway and/or in negotiation using the funds available to us.”

Bris­tol My­ers backs up its case for heart drug mava­camten as FDA weighs app in car­diomy­opa­thy

When Bristol Myers Squibb signed off on its $13 billion acquisition of MyoKardia back in October, it was making a big bet that lead drug mavacamten could prove a game changer in cardiac myopathy. Now, with the drug up for FDA review, Bristol Myers is backing up its case with new quality of life data.

Patients dosed with myosin inhibitor mavacamten posted a clinically significant increase in scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, a catch-all summary of symptoms and quality of life markers, over placebo at 30 weeks, according to data from the Phase III EXPLORER-HCM study presented Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.