Managing directors Hakan Goker (L) and Owen Lozman, M Ventures

Mer­ck KGaA's ven­ture arm is ready to make new in­vest­ments, rais­ing more than $675M to get things go­ing

Mer­ck KGaA’s ven­ture cap­i­tal arm has closed its lat­est fund, bring­ing the Eu­ro­pean con­glom­er­ate fresh cash to in­vest in up-and-com­ing biotechs.

M Ven­tures raised €600 mil­lion, or rough­ly $677 mil­lion, Mer­ck KGaA an­nounced Wednes­day morn­ing, in the fund’s third in­crease since be­ing es­tab­lished back in 2009. The fund’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Hakan Gok­er, told End­points News in an in­ter­view that while M Ven­tures isn’t putting an ex­act num­ber on the com­pa­nies it’ll fund, the cash will like­ly go to­ward seed rounds and ear­ly in­vest­ments.

Gok­er al­so not­ed that the fund likes to keep its op­tions open and is large­ly ag­nos­tic to­ward spe­cif­ic ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. M Ven­tures fur­ther doesn’t lim­it it­self to on­ly seed or Se­ries A rounds, he stressed.

“Any nov­el plat­form, nov­el modal­i­ty, nov­el mech­a­nism that promis­es to make a sig­nif­i­cant ex­po­nen­tial leap in the clin­ic for pa­tients is of in­ter­est to us,” Gok­er told End­points.

The fund is led by both Gok­er and an­oth­er man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Owen Loz­man, who’ve help build more than 80 com­pa­nies from “cre­ation to ex­it.” Along with in­vest­ing in Mer­ck KGaA’s cor­po­rate in­ter­ests, Gok­er said M Ven­tures has an ever­green rem­e­dy that al­lows it to re­cy­cle cap­i­tal from some of its re­turns.

“With the sig­nif­i­cant amount of cash that is be­ing al­lo­cat­ed to us, we will be able to build more com­pa­nies and fi­nance them ei­ther larg­er or longer to­wards them reach­ing their max­i­mal val­ue propo­si­tion,” Gok­er said, “be it debt, list­ing, M&A, stand­alone, larg­er com­pa­ny, what­ev­er it may be.”

Right now serves as an op­por­tune time to in­vest, he added, as the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has brought with it in­creased in­vestor in­ter­est in the life sci­ences area. Gok­er said he thinks that feel­ing will re­main for a while, with the in­dus­try al­ready flush with cash from sev­er­al high-pro­file IPOs and oth­er large fi­nanc­ing rounds.

The new fund clos­es as Mer­ck KGaA’s larg­er R&D ef­forts have stum­bled in re­cent months, most no­tably af­ter the com­pa­ny called off a $4 bil­lion part­ner­ship with Glax­o­SmithK­line in Sep­tem­ber. The Big Phar­mas were de­vel­op­ing a once-promis­ing can­cer drug called bin­tra­fusp al­fa, but it failed piv­otal stud­ies in both sec­ond-line BTC and NSCLC this year.

But Mer­ck KGaA is al­so tak­ing oth­er steps to in­vest in its fu­ture, fi­nal­iz­ing plans for an­oth­er $319 mil­lion to beef up two new fa­cil­i­ties at its head­quar­ters. The blue­prints for a trans­la­tion­al sci­ence cen­ter for sci­en­tists in its health­care busi­ness unit, as well as a new learn­ing cen­ter to on­board new em­ploy­ees, come as part of a larg­er $1 bil­lion-plus ren­o­va­tion un­veiled in 2019.

MedTech clinical trials require a unique regulatory and study design approach and so engaging a highly experienced CRO to ensure compliance and accurate data across all stages is critical to development milestones.

In­no­v­a­tive MedTech De­mands Spe­cial­ist Clin­i­cal Tri­al Reg­u­la­to­ry Af­fairs and De­sign

Avance Clinical is the Australian CRO for international biotechs providing world-class clinical research services with FDA-accepted data across all phases. With Avance Clinical, biotech companies can leverage Australia’s supportive clinical trials environment which includes no IND requirement plus a 43.5% Government incentive rebate on clinical spend. The CRO has been delivering clinical drug development services for international biotechs for FDA and EMA regulatory approval for the past 24 years. The company has been recognized for the past two consecutive years with the prestigious Frost & Sullivan CRO Best Practices Award and a finalist in Informa Pharma’s Best CRO award for 2022.

Tony Coles, Cerevel CEO

Cerev­el takes the pub­lic of­fer­ing route, with a twist — rais­ing big mon­ey thanks to ri­val da­ta

As public biotechs seek to climb out of the bear market, a popular strategy to raise cash has been through public offerings on the heels of positive data. But one proposed raise Wednesday appeared to take advantage not of a company’s own data, but those from a competitor.

Cerevel Therapeutics plans to raise $250 million in a public offering and another $250 million in debt, the biotech announced Wednesday afternoon, even though it did not report any news on its pipeline. However, the move comes days after rival Karuna Therapeutics touted positive Phase III data in schizophrenia, a field where Cerevel is pursuing a similar program.

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Up­dat­ed: Amid mas­sive re­struc­tur­ing, Bio­gen looks to re­duce phys­i­cal pres­ence in Boston

Biogen is putting a sizable chunk of office and research space in Kendall Square and Weston, MA up for sublease, marking another big change as the biotech grapples with the aftershock of a disastrous and controversial rollout for its Alzheimer’s drug.

The subbleases are “part of Biogen’s overall implementation of the ‘Future of Work,’ which is allowing us to optimize our footprint and reduce the amount of space we occupy, taking into consideration new elements such as the hybrid work model,” Biogen spokesperson Ashleigh Koss wrote in a statement to Endpoints News, adding that the company has had subleases across several buildings for years.

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Who are the women blaz­ing trails in bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for End­points' 2022 spe­cial re­port

Over the past three years, Endpoints News has spotlighted 60 women who have blazed trails and supercharged R&D across the biopharma world. And judging from the response we’ve received, to both our special reports and live events, telling their stories — including any obstacles they may have had to overcome — has inspired our readers in many different ways.

But change takes time, and the fact remains that women are still underrepresented at the upper ranks of the drug-making world.

Bernat Olle, Vedanta Biosciences CEO

Cit­ing 'chal­leng­ing eco­nom­ic en­vi­ron­ment,' PhI­II-ready mi­cro­bio­me biotech lays off 20% of staffers

The market downturn isn’t just sweeping up public biotechs.

Vedanta Biosciences, a developer of oral drugs derived from the human microbiome, is laying off about 20% of its staff — an unfortunately common occurrence these days. But CEO Bernat Olle took the unusual step of sharing the decision on LinkedIn and offering to connect the employees being let go with any company that’s hiring in their areas.

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Hervé Affagard, MaaT Pharma CEO

One year in­to clin­i­cal hold, FDA has more ques­tions about 'pooled' mi­cro­bio­me ther­a­py

The FDA is still wary about a trial testing a microbiome therapy in patients with steroid-resistant acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD).

A year after MaaT Pharma’s IND application in the US was first met with a clinical hold, the French biotech said the agency is maintaining the hold. The crux of the matter, MaaT suggested, has to do with the way it puts together its drug candidate, which is administered as an enema (i.e. an injection of fluid into the bowel).

Pfiz­er launch­es re­bate pro­gram for rare dis­ease pa­tients who have to stop tak­ing Panzy­ga

Pfizer is launching its second-ever rebate program, this time for Panzyga, its treatment for a rare neurological disease of the peripheral nerves.

The program began last month, according to STAT which first reported the news, and offers a refund of out-of-pocket costs for patients who must discontinue their course before the fifth treatment for “clinical reasons.”

Panzyga was approved back in 2018 to treat primary immunodeficiency (PI) in patients two years and older and chronic immune thrombocytopenia (cITP) in adults. It has since picked up an indication in chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a condition that’s characterized by weakness of the arms or legs, tingling or numbness, and a loss of deep tendon reflexes, according to the NIH.

Horizon's back-to-school campaign for children with cystinosis includes an all about me poster as part of a care package box.

Hori­zon read­ies kids and fam­i­lies for back to school with week­long ac­tiv­i­ties around rare dis­ease cysti­nosis

Going back to school is usually a bumpy readjustment from summer freedom for all kids, but especially for kids with chronic health conditions. Horizon Therapeutics is hoping to help smooth the way for some who have the rare disease cystinosis. Cystinosis is a genetic disease that causes the amino acid cystine to build up in different tissues and organs.

The “Gear Up” for school campaign is running all week with different online and at-home events and activities for families and children with cystinosis. Each family who signed up receives a care package mailed to their home including an activity coloring book “Michael’s Show-and-Tell.” The book tells Michael’s story about living with cystinosis while offering kids matching, coloring and finding object games along with information.

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Phar­mas spend mil­lions on di­a­betes ad­ver­tis­ing, but few pa­tients can re­call brand names — sur­vey

While many Big Pharma diabetes brands spend millions of dollars on TV ads every year, most people with type 2 diabetes don’t recognize specific drug brand names, according to a new study.

No brand garnered more than 30% recognition in Phreesia Life Science’s latest in-office patient survey of more than 4,000 adults with type 2 diabetes. Eli Lilly’s Trulicity topped the list as the most recognized brand with 29% of those surveyed recalling it, followed by Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly’s Jardiance at 27% and Merck’s Januvia and Novo Nordisk tying for the third spot with 24%. Meanwhile, 76% of the patients surveyed were familiar with the generic treatment metformin.

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