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.

Mov­ing Out of the Clin­ic with Dig­i­tal Tools: Mo­bile Spirom­e­try Dur­ing COVID-19 & Be­yond

An important technology in assessing lung function, spirometry offers crucial data for the diagnosis and monitoring of pulmonary system diseases, as well as the ongoing measurement of treatment efficacy. But trends in the healthcare industry and new challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic are causing professionals in clinical practice and research to reevaluate spirometry’s deployment methods and best practices.

Paul Hudson (Getty Images)

Sanofi, Glax­o­SmithK­line jump back in­to the PhI­II race for a Covid vac­cine — as the win­ners con­gre­gate be­hind the fin­ish line

Sanofi got out early in the race to develop a vaccine using more of a traditional approach, then derailed late last year as their candidate failed to work in older people. Now, after likely missing the bus for the bulk of the world’s affluent nations, they’re back from that embarrassing collapse with a second attempt using GSK’s adjuvant that may get them back on track — with a potential Q4 launch that the rest of the world will be paying close attention to.

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Matt Gline (L) and Vivek Ramaswamy

In­sid­er ac­count of Roivan­t's SPAC deal — and that $7.3B val­u­a­tion — re­veals a few se­crets as Matt Gline po­si­tions the com­pa­ny as the new ‘Big Phar­ma’

It was Oct. 7, 2020, and Matt Gline wasn’t wasting any time.

The CEO of Roivant had word that KKR vet Jim Momtazee’s SPAC had priced late the night before, triggering a green light for anyone interested in pursuing a big check for future operations and riding the financial instrument to Nasdaq. So he wrote a quick email congratulating Momtazee, whom he knew, for the launch.

Oh, and maybe Momtazee would like to schedule something with Gline and his executive chairman, Roivant founder Vivek Ramaswamy, to chat about Roivant and its business?

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SCO­TUS de­clines to re­view En­brel biosim­i­lar case, tee­ing up 30+ years of ex­clu­siv­i­ty and $20B more for Am­gen’s block­buster

As the House Oversight Committee is set to grill AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez on Tuesday over tactics to block competition for its best-selling drug of all time, another decision on Capitol Hill on Monday opened the door for billions more in Amgen profits over the next eight years.

The Supreme Court on Monday denied Novartis subsidiary Sandoz’s petition to review a Federal Circuit’s July 2020 decision concerning its biosimilar Erelzi (etanercept-szzs), which FDA approved in 2016 as a biosimilar to Amgen’s Enbrel (etanercept). Samsung’s Enbrel biosimilar Eticovo also won approval in 2019 and remains sidelined.

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How to man­u­fac­ture Covid-19 vac­cines with­out the help of J&J, Pfiz­er or Mod­er­na? Bi­ol­yse sees the dif­fi­cul­ties up close

When Biolyse, an Ontario-based manufacturer of sterile injectables, forged a deal with Bolivia last week to manufacture up to 50 million J&J Covid-19 vaccine doses, the agreement kicked off what will prove to be a test case for how difficult the system of compulsory licenses is to navigate.

The first problem: When Biolyse asked J&J, via a March letter, to license its Covid-19 vaccine, manufacture it in Canada and pay 5% royalties on shipments to needy, low-income countries, J&J rejected the offer, refusing to negotiate. J&J also did not respond to a request for comment.

Tim Mayleben (L) and Sheldon Koenig (Esperion)

On the heels of a sting­ing Q1 set­back, Es­pe­ri­on's long­time cham­pi­on is ex­it­ing the helm and turn­ing the wheel over to a mar­ket­ing pro

Just days after getting stung by criticism from a badly disappointed group of analysts, there’s a big change happening today at the helm of Esperion $ESPR.

Longtime CEO Tim Mayleben, who championed the company for 9 years from early clinical through a lengthy late-stage drive to successfully get their cholesterol drug approved for a significant niche of patients in the US, is out of the C suite, effective immediately. Sheldon Koenig — hired at the end of 2020 with a resume replete with Big Pharma CV sales experience —  is stepping into his place, promising to right a badly listing commercial ship that’s been battered by market forces.

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No­var­tis' En­tresto takes its 2nd fail­ure of the week­end at ACC, show­ing no ben­e­fit in most dire heart fail­ure pa­tients

Novartis’ Entresto started the ACC weekend off rough with a trial flop in heart attack patients, slowing the drug’s push into earlier patients. Now, an NIH-sponsored study is casting doubt on Entresto’s use in the most severe heart failure patients, another black mark on the increasingly controversial drug’s record.

Entresto, a combination of sacubitril and valsartan, could not beat out valsartan alone in an outcomes head-to-head for severe heart failure patients with a reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), according to data presented Monday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

A T-cell play­er with back­ing from Roche takes next big step for BiTE drugs with 'on-of­f' switch to avoid tox­i­c­i­ty

The bispecific T cell engager field is absolutely packed with big-name players who have crowded in despite some high-profile failures in the class. Now, a Bay Area biotech thinks it may have the key to tackling BiTE toxicity, using an old “on-off switch” idea to give doctors more control of the drugs’ effect on patients.

San Francisco-based Soteria Biotherapeutics uncloaked Monday with a $42 million Series A co-led by Roche Venture Fund and 5AM Ventures with participation from the Novartis Venture Fund to advance its bispecific T cell engagers with an “on-off” switch the founders think can avoid some of the dire safety flags endemic to the class.

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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