Danny Yeung, Prenetics CEO

Mak­ing a name for it­self in Covid-19 test­ing, Hong Kong's Pre­net­ics is the lat­est biotech SPAC merg­er — re­port

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A Hong Kong biotech re­search­ing ge­net­ic se­quenc­ing and de­vel­op­ing rapid Covid-19 tests is re­port­ed­ly set to be­come the first bil­lion-dol­lar start­up in the city to go pub­lic.

Pre­net­ics will hop on­to Nas­daq through a SPAC, CN­BC re­port­ed ear­ly Thurs­day, in a deal that will val­ue the biotech at $1.3 bil­lion. Found­ed by en­tre­pre­neur Dan­ny Ye­ung, Pre­net­ics will re­verse merge with the SPAC Ar­ti­san Ac­qui­si­tion, which comes from the CEO of the Hong Kong con­glom­er­ate New World De­vel­op­ment.

In the deal, Pre­net­ics will get the $339 mil­lion raised in the SPAC, as well as an­oth­er $60 mil­lion in PIPE fi­nanc­ing. The merg­er is ex­pect­ed to be com­plet­ed by the end of 2021, CN­BC re­port­ed.

Pre­net­ics could not be reached for com­ment. News of the deal came from an anony­mous CN­BC source, who re­quest­ed not to be named to dis­cuss the in­for­ma­tion pub­licly.

SPAC ac­tiv­i­ty has slowed down sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the first quar­ter of the year, but the blank check com­pa­nies have still steered more than $15 bil­lion to the biotech sec­tor, ac­cord­ing to the End­points News tal­ly.

The biotech has gar­nered sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic­i­ty since the start of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic thanks to its test­ing kits. Ye­ung, who serves as the CEO, has pre­vi­ous­ly boast­ed that Pre­net­ics’ Covid-19 kits are com­pa­ra­ble in ac­cu­ra­cy to lab-based PCR tests, bet­ter than anti­gen test­ing and can re­turn re­sults in 30 min­utes.

Their tests, de­vel­oped by Uni­ver­si­ty of Ox­ford re­searchers, use a tech­nique in­volv­ing loop-me­di­at­ed isother­mal am­pli­fi­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to a CN­BC re­port from No­vem­ber.

Ear­li­er in the pan­dem­ic, Pre­net­ics dis­trib­uted tests in Hong Kong’s air­port and soon moved to Lon­don’s Heathrow Air­port. It’s re­port­ed­ly in dis­cus­sions with oth­er gov­ern­ments to ex­pand test­ing to oth­er air­ports.

The biotech al­so runs op­er­a­tions in the UK and worked with Britain’s top soc­cer as­so­ci­a­tion, the Eng­lish Pre­mier League, to restart their sea­son af­ter it had been sus­pend­ed in March 2020. It’s fur­ther de­vel­op­ing Covid-19 test­ing pods that it hopes to de­ploy out­side of­fice spaces in or­der to help busi­ness­es bring work­ers back from home full-time, ac­cord­ing to The Guardian.

Pre­net­ics’ plan is to set up the pods in park­ing lots near the build­ings and have in­di­vid­u­als sched­ule tests on­line be­fore they come to work. They’d then take the tests pri­or to en­ter­ing the of­fice. Pre­net­ics pods have al­ready be­gun pop­ping up around the UK, and the com­pa­ny is charg­ing up to about $150 per test in the coun­try.

Ye­ung has a his­to­ry of se­r­i­al en­tre­pre­neurism, hav­ing launched sev­er­al star­tups in the past. In 2010, his on­line bulk-buy­ing web­site uBuy­iBuy was ac­quired by Groupon for an undis­closed amount, and he’s al­so fran­chised a Hong Kong dessert chain in­to the US.

He ul­ti­mate­ly left Groupon in 2014, but over­saw a con­tro­ver­sy in 2011 where his Hong Kong branch ran a com­mer­cial par­o­dy­ing celebri­ty pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments, per a re­port from the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post. The ad re­port­ed­ly sug­gest­ed that de­spite Ti­bet’s strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence, cus­tomers could still bar­gain-hunt at lo­cal restau­rants.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Months af­ter a mam­moth raise, Ven­tyx Bio­sciences dips back in­to ven­ture well

Several months after emerging from what CEO Raju Mohan called “quiet mode” with a mammoth $114 million raise, Ventyx Biosciences is now making its plans for the clinic loud and clear.

The California-based immune modulation player kicked the week off with a $51 million Series B, while also naming some key hires ahead of its big clinical push.

The CMO slot is going to Jörn Drappa, former CMO at Viela Bio before it was bought out by Horizon Therapeutics earlier this year. The AstraZeneca vet stayed on at Horizon for a while as executive VP of R&D before making the jump to Ventyx.