Mer­ck snaps up a Ger­man im­muno-on­col­o­gy up­start in a $603M bolt-on deal

Mu­nich-based Rigontec is de­liv­er­ing a sol­id re­turn for its ven­ture back­ers. Mer­ck $MRK has struck a rare deal to buy the biotech for $150 mil­lion in cash and an­oth­er $453 mil­lion in mile­stones, snap­ping up a 3-year-old fledg­ling that raised just €30 mil­lion to get to this point.

For Mer­ck it’s an­oth­er ex­am­ple of how Roger Perl­mut­ter likes to aug­ment the work be­ing done around its PD-1 su­per­star Keytru­da with the oc­ca­sion­al add-on. It’s a small deal for the phar­ma gi­ant, and he’s clear­ly im­pressed with the po­ten­tial the Bonn Uni­ver­si­ty spin­out has in ac­ti­vat­ing RIG-I as a key path­way in the in­nate im­mune sys­tem.

The tech­nol­o­gy is de­signed to ac­ti­vate an im­mune re­sponse, just as PD-1 can elim­i­nate a de­fen­sive net­work pro­tect­ing can­cer cells.

“Rigontec’s im­muno-on­col­o­gy ap­proach of en­gag­ing the in­nate im­mune sys­tem to safe­ly elim­i­nate can­cer cells com­ple­ments our strat­e­gy and our cur­rent pipeline,” said Er­ic Ru­bin, vice pres­i­dent of ear­ly-stage on­col­o­gy de­vel­op­ment at Mer­ck Re­search Lab­o­ra­to­ries. “We are ea­ger to build up­on Rigontec’s sci­ence as we con­tin­ue our ef­forts in bring­ing for­ward mean­ing­ful ad­vances for pa­tients with can­cer.”


Mer­ck un­der Perl­mut­ter has struck a few of these small ac­qui­si­tions. IOmet’s I/O work was bagged in mid-2016 in an­oth­er easy bolt-on for Mer­ck, which hasn’t been do­ing big deals in re­cent years.

The big win­ners to­day are Rigontec’s in­vestors: Boehringer In­gel­heim Ven­ture Fund, For­bion Cap­i­tal Part­ners, High-Tech Grün­der­fonds, MP Health­care Ven­ture Man­age­ment, NRW.BANK, Sun­stone Cap­i­tal and Welling­ton Part­ners Life Sci­ences.

The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Gala­pa­gos chops in­to their pipeline, drop­ping core fields and re­or­ga­niz­ing R&D as the BD team hunts for some­thing 'trans­for­ma­tive'

Just 5 months after Gilead gutted its rich partnership with Galapagos following a bitter setback at the FDA, the Belgian biotech is hunkering down and chopping the pipeline in an effort to conserve cash while their BD team pursues a mission to find a “transformative” deal for the company.

The filgotinib disaster didn’t warrant a mention as Galapagos laid out its Darwinian restructuring plans. Forced to make choices, the company is ditching its IPF molecule ’1205, while moving ahead with a Phase II IPF study for its chitinase inhibitor ’4617.

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Stéphane Bancel, Getty

Mod­er­na CEO brush­es off US sup­port for IP waiv­er, eyes more than $19B in Covid-19 vac­cine sales in 2021

Moderna is definitively more concerned with keeping pace with Pfizer in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 than it is with Wednesday’s decision from the Biden administration to back an intellectual property waiver that aims to increase vaccine supplies worldwide.

In its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shrugged off any suggestion that the newly US-backed intellectual property waiver would impact his company’s vaccine or bottom line. Still, the company’s stock price fell by about 9% in early morning trading.

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'Chang­ing the whole game of drug dis­cov­ery': Leg­endary R&D vet Roger Perl­mut­ter leaps back in­to work as a biotech CEO

Roger Perlmutter needs no introduction to anyone remotely involved in biopharma. As the R&D chief first at Amgen and then Merck, he’s built a stellar reputation and a prolific career steering new drugs toward the market for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.

But for years, he’s also held a less known title: science partner at The Column Group, where he’s regularly consulted about the various ideas the VCs had for new startups.

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Joe Wiley, Amryt CEO

A biotech with a yen for pricey rare dis­ease drugs — and bar­gain base­ment shop­ping — adopts an­oth­er or­phan in lat­est M&A pact

After making it through a long, painful haul to get past a CRL and on to an FDA approval last summer, little Chiasma has found a buyer.

Amryt $AMYT, a company known for its appetite for acquiring expensive drugs for rare diseases at bargain prices, snagged Chiasma and its acromegaly drug Mycapssa (octreotide) capsules in an all-stock deal — with an exchange of 0.396 shares of Amryt for every share of Chiasma.

Ad­comm splits slight­ly in fa­vor of FDA ap­prov­ing Chemo­Cen­tryx’s rare dis­ease drug

The FDA’s Arthritis Advisory Committee on Thursday voted 10 for and 8 against the approval of ChemoCentryx’s $CCXI investigational drug avacopan as a treatment for adults with a rare and serious disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis.

The vote on whether the FDA should approve the drug was preceded by a split vote of 9 to 9 on whether the efficacy data support approval, and 10 to 8 that the safety profile of avacopan is adequate enough to support approval.

Paul Hastings, Nkarta CEO

With no up­front pay­ment or mile­stones on the line, Nkar­ta and CRISPR join forces on CAR-NK search

Most deals in biotech come with hefty upfront payments attached, and the promise of big biobucks if a program works out. Not this one.

Nkarta has struck what CEO Paul Hastings calls a “real collaboration” with CRISPR Therapeutics to co-develop and commercialize two CAR-NK therapies, in addition to an NK+T program. The duo will split all R&D costs — and any worldwide profits — 50/50, Hastings said.

Brent Saunders (Richard Drew, AP Images)

OcuWho? Star deal­mak­er turned aes­thet­ics czar Brent Saun­ders flips back in­to biotech. But who’s he team­ing up with now?

Brent Saunders went on a tear of headline-blazing deals building Allergan, merging and rearranging a variety of big companies into one before an M&A pact with Pfizer blew up and sent him on a bout of biotech drug deals. That didn’t work so well, so under pressure, he got his buyout at AbbVie — which needed a big franchise like Botox. And it was no big surprise to see him riding the SPAC wave into a recent $1 billion-plus deal that left him in the executive chairman’s seat at an aesthetics outfit — now redubbed The Beauty Health Company — holding a big chunk of the equity.

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Drug pric­ing watch­dog joins the cho­rus of crit­ics on Bio­gen's ad­u­canum­ab: What about charg­ing $2,560 per year?

As if Biogen’s aducanumab isn’t controversial enough, the researchers at drug pricing watchdog ICER have drawn up the contours of a new debate: If the therapy does get approved for Alzheimer’s by June, what price should it command?

Their answer: At most $8,290 per year — and perhaps as little as $2,560.

Even at the top of the range, the proposed price is a fraction of the $50,000 that Wall Street has reportedly come to expect (although RBC analyst Brian Abrahams puts the consensus figure at $11.5K). With critics, including experts on the FDA’s advisory committee, making their fierce opposition to aducanumab’s approval loud and clear, the pricing pressure adds one extra wrinkle Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos doesn’t need as he orders full-steam preparation for a launch.