Sean McClain, AbSci

Months af­ter strik­ing a deal with Sanofi, Ab­Sci nails its largest fundraise yet to sup­port its pro­tein print­ing tech

Months af­ter nail­ing down a $10.4 mil­lion Se­ries D and a part­ner­ship with French phar­ma gi­ant Sanofi, Ab­Sci is pulling in its largest fundraise yet — $65 mil­lion to ad­vance what it calls its pro­tein print­ing tech.

The Van­cou­ver, WA-based biotech is work­ing on a more ef­fi­cient way to man­u­fac­ture pro­teins — from full-length an­ti­bod­ies to in­sulin — us­ing E. coli. The com­pa­ny says it’s on a quest to make pro­tein pro­duc­tion “as sim­ple as DNA syn­the­sis,” al­low­ing for swift pro­duc­tion of dif­fi­cult-to-pro­duce bio­ther­a­peu­tics. It’s tag­ging the Se­ries E for ex­pan­sion of its pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty, which in­cludes a new 60,000-square-foot fa­cil­i­ty in Van­cou­ver.

“Many drugs, es­pe­cial­ly bi­o­log­i­cal drugs, don’t make it to mar­ket or take for­ev­er to get to mar­ket, not be­cause of drug dis­cov­ery but man­u­fac­tura­bil­i­ty,” CEO Sean Mc­Clain told End­points News. “And what Ab­Sci is do­ing is flip­ping that par­a­digm and al­low­ing re­searchers to be able to fo­cus on drug dis­cov­ery and have a plat­form such as Ab­Sci’s pro­tein print­ing plat­form where they can… de­vel­op and man­u­fac­ture these drugs and get the ab­solute best drug can­di­dates to mar­ket, nev­er hav­ing to wor­ry about man­u­fac­tura­bil­i­ty,” he said.

The biotech was found­ed in Port­land, OR in 2011, and hooked a $5.1 mil­lion Se­ries A about five years lat­er. At the time, it was laser-fo­cused on its E. Coli ex­pres­sion plat­form, SoluPro, for pro­duc­ing sol­u­ble, com­plex pro­teins in high yields. It went com­mer­cial in 2018 with SoluPro, and in 2019 with its pro­tein print­ing plat­form, which builds on SoluPro with tech­nol­o­gy de­signed to pump out high-di­ver­si­ty strain li­braries and high-through­put screen­ing as­says.

Us­ing pro­pri­etary screen­ing as­says, “we’re able to screen up to 10 mil­lion dif­fer­ent pro­tein fold­ing and ex­pres­sion so­lu­tions in SoluPro in a giv­en ex­per­i­ment, and es­sen­tial­ly fish out the nee­dle in the haystack that gives the high­est titer and the high­est qual­i­ty,” Mc­Clain ex­plained.

The re­cent Se­ries E was led by Cas­din Cap­i­tal, with help from Red­mile Group, Ar­row­Mark Part­ners and Phoenix Ven­ture Part­ners.

Eli Cas­din

“We be­lieve Ab­Sci’s Pro­tein Print­ing tech­nol­o­gy has a unique op­por­tu­ni­ty to sup­port the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of next-gen­er­a­tion bi­o­log­ics which have long been con­sid­ered un­man­u­fac­turable,” Eli Cas­din, CIO and Founder of Cas­din Cap­i­tal, said in a state­ment.

In Jan­u­ary — a few days be­fore clos­ing a Se­ries D led by KBI Bio­phar­ma and JSR Life Sci­ences — Ab­Sci inked a deal with Sanofi to ap­ply SoluPro to two un­spec­i­fied bio­ther­a­peu­tic mol­e­cules. The com­pa­nies kept mum about the fi­nan­cial terms of the deal, on­ly shar­ing that the Sanofi-fund­ed part­ner­ship would take place at Ab­Sci.

“This col­lab­o­ra­tion il­lus­trates the need for new ex­pres­sion tech­nolo­gies that are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing these next-gen­er­a­tion an­ti­body and pro­tein scaf­folds,” Mc­Clain said at the time.

In ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, the com­pa­ny closed a deal li­cens­ing SoluPro to Al­pha Can­cer Tech­nolo­gies for the pro­duc­tion of Re­com­bi­nant Hu­man Al­pha-fe­to­pro­tein (hAFP) to treat var­i­ous au­toim­mune dis­eases and can­cers. Un­der the terms of the deal, Ab­Sci will pre­pare the hAFP pro­duc­ing E. coli strain, in re­turn for an undis­closed amount in de­vel­op­ment and sales mile­stones, plus roy­al­ties.

“This year has been a big growth year for Ab­Sci… We’re just see­ing a ton of mo­men­tum right now, and see­ing that spilling in­to next year and the year af­ter that,” Mc­Clain told End­points.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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Michael Rome (Foresite)

In search of 'house­hold health­care brands of the fu­ture,' Fore­site Cap­i­tal rais­es $969M to sa­ti­ate a tech-heavy ap­petite

Back in April 2018, just before Foresite Capital unveiled its $668 million Fund IV and a strategy to focus on tech-driven life science bets, one of its portfolio companies quietly made an announcement.

Fount Therapeutics, a drug discovery outfit backed by Foresite and Eshelman Ventures, had raised $22 million in Series A cash to hatch several fledgling spinouts. “The first ‘NewCo,’ Kinnate, will be focused on developing precision oncology treatments,” read a press release.

S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

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Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO (glen photo/Shutterstock)

Japan's Soft­Bank plots bil­lions in biotech in­vest­ments in move that could keep the val­u­a­tion flood ris­ing — re­port

The valuation crazy train in biotech continues to roll into the new year with more than a dozen companies taking a chance on Nasdaq and money flowing in from all sides. Now, a Japanese institutional investor is reportedly weighing an entry into the market in a big way — will it keep the bitcoin-esque flood rising?

Already a part-time investor in biotech, SoftBank could drop billions of dollars into the industry as part of helmsman Masayoshi Son’s plan to spend around $80 billion of the firm’s own assets, according to a report from Bloomberg citing people familiar with the plan.

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