Luca Santarelli, VectivBio CEO

MPM-backed Were­wolf, Mer­ck-part­nered Arti­va make quick IPO flip while Lu­ca Santarel­li's biotech rais­es $127.5M

The jump from crossover rounds to biotech IPO is quick­er than ever.

Just weeks af­ter un­veil­ing Se­ries B rounds, MPM-backed Were­wolf and Mer­ck-part­nered Arti­va are spelling out plans to go pub­lic on Nas­daq. Both have pen­ciled in the stan­dard goal of rais­ing $100 mil­lion.

That fig­ure is fast be­com­ing an un­re­li­able place­hold­er, as many com­pa­nies have gone on to raise a lot more. Lu­ca Santarel­li’s Swiss rare dis­ease play­er Vec­tivBio, though, stuck close to the range, bag­ging $127.5 mil­lion from its Nas­daq de­but.

Howl­ing Were­wolf pounces

Dan Hick­lin

Boston-based Were­wolf — which is go­ing the ex­tra mile and shoot­ing for $HOWL as the tick­er — out­lined some of its plans to hit the clin­ic back in Jan­u­ary, when CEO Dan Hick­lin took the wraps off a $72 mil­lion Se­ries B.

Us­ing an en­gi­neer­ing plat­form dubbed PREDA­TOR, the com­pa­ny has three mol­e­cules be­long­ing to a class they dub In­dukines, which com­pris­es four com­po­nents: a cy­tokine, an in­ac­ti­va­tion do­main, a half-life ex­ten­sion do­main and a link­er that can be cleaved by pro­teas­es found in tu­mors. That way, they rea­son, the drug stays qui­et through­out the body and on­ly trig­gers an in­flam­ma­to­ry ef­fect against can­cer.

The sys­tem makes use of tech­nolo­gies from Har­poon — a fel­low MPM com­pa­ny — in­clud­ing “polypep­tides and a bind­ing moi­ety for con­di­tion­al ac­ti­va­tion of cer­tain polypep­tides.” In ad­di­tion to promis­ing roy­al­ties and ex­chang­ing cer­tain oth­er patent rights, Were­wolf paid a grand $500,000 up­front to Har­poon, which is build­ing an op­er­a­tion around T cell en­gage­ment.

With an ini­tial fo­cus on IL-2 and IL-12, Were­wolf is look­ing to be­gin hu­man test­ing for WTX-124 and WTX-330 in 2022. The third can­di­date aims to con­di­tion­al­ly ac­ti­vate IFN-a.

The com­pa­ny is so young that it’s on­ly burned through $51.9 mil­lion to get here — less than the $56 mil­lion Se­ries A they had launched with.

MPM claims the li­on’s share of stock at 20.75%, fol­lowed by UBC On­col­o­gy Im­pact Fund and RA Cap­i­tal, each a lit­tle more than 11%. Oth­er in­vestors in­clude Tai­ho Ven­tures, Deer­field, Arkin and UPMC.

Hick­lin, who al­so owns about 3% of shares af­ter tak­ing the top job in Au­gust 2019, was re­ward­ed with a 2020 com­pen­sa­tion pack­age worth close to $3 mil­lion. CMO Ran­di Isaacs made $887,539, the bulk in op­tion awards grant­ed as she joined in No­vem­ber; CSO Cyn­thia Sei­del-Dugan got a sim­i­lar pay at $837,294.

Arti­va sheds light on trans-Pa­cif­ic NK cell man­u­fac­tur­ing process

Tom Far­rell

Un­til ear­li­er this year, Arti­va didn’t have much of a pro­file in bio­phar­ma land. For­mer Bel­licum CEO Tom Far­rell had as­sem­bled an NK cell ther­a­py com­pa­ny, lean­ing heav­i­ly on a “huge­ly im­pres­sive” man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty be­long­ing to Green Cross Lab­Cell in Ko­rea, gath­ered $78 mil­lion in Se­ries A mon­ey and did the news rounds last June, then stayed large­ly qui­et.

That changed when Mer­ck signed a col­lab­o­ra­tion worth near­ly $2 bil­lion in mile­stones to pick up the off-the-shelf NK cell tech. Arti­va quick­ly fol­lowed up with a $120 mil­lion Se­ries B, de­signed to kick­start Phase I/II for its lead pro­gram in non-Hodgkin’s lym­phoma.

The part­ner­ship deal, Arti­va re­vealed in its S-1, gave GC Lab­Cell a 28% stake in the biotech, al­most dou­ble the hold­ings of 5AM Ven­tures, ven­Bio, RA Cap­i­tal and more than quadru­ple what Ven­rock has.

To make the prod­ucts, the US team sources cord blood units with fa­vor­able char­ac­ter­is­tics — such as a nat­ur­al high affin­i­ty vari­ant of the re­cep­tor CD16 — from a pub­lic cord bank. Arti­va then ships the ma­te­r­i­al to Ko­rea, where GC Lab­Cell runs a new­ly built com­mer­cial site:

Af­ter man­u­fac­tur­ing, the drug prod­uct is cry­op­re­served, shipped back to the Unit­ed States and dis­trib­uted to clin­i­cal tri­al sites where it will be thawed and ad­min­is­tered in an out-pa­tient set­ting. The process gen­er­ates suf­fi­cient NK cells to treat hun­dreds to thou­sands of pa­tients from a sin­gle cord blood unit, de­pend­ing on the prod­uct and dos­ing reg­i­men, and pro­duces a con­sis­tent­ly ac­tive NK cell prod­uct, with lit­tle donor-to-donor vari­abil­i­ty.

Fred Aslan

Arti­va is gun­ning for a lead­ing po­si­tion in what, af­ter many years, has re­cent­ly be­come a boom­ing field. Big Phar­mas like Take­da and J&J are join­ing a slate of small­er play­ers in ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial of NK cell ther­a­pies in all their fla­vors. While it’s al­so work­ing on CAR-NK ap­proach­es, Arti­va’s first can­di­date is a “non-ge­net­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied, but op­ti­mized, cord blood-de­rived NK cell ther­a­py.”

Far­rell pock­et­ed more than $1.2 mil­lion for steer­ing the com­pa­ny be­fore turn­ing over to Fred Aslan in Jan­u­ary.

From $810M buy­out to spin­off IPO in less than 2 years

Lu­ca Santarel­li tells a straight­for­ward sto­ry about Vec­tivBio. Af­ter sell­ing Ther­a­chon to Pfiz­er in an $810 mil­lion deal, the Roche vet im­me­di­ate­ly spun out with the new com­pa­ny, tak­ing their Phase II drug apraglu­tide for short bow­el syn­drome.

The IPO was a nat­ur­al next step on the heels of a mega-raise of $110 mil­lion an­nounced last Oc­to­ber, with the fo­cus still square­ly on ex­e­cut­ing the Phase III and lay­ing the foun­da­tion for com­mer­cial­iza­tion work.

A long-act­ing syn­thet­ic pep­tide ana­log of GLP-2, apraglu­tide re­mains the sole as­set in the com­pa­ny and will be de­ployed in a range of rare gas­troin­testi­nal dis­or­ders out­side of SBS.

Topline re­sults for the lead in­di­ca­tion, in SBS in­testi­nal fail­ure, are ex­pect­ed in 2023.

While Vec­tivBio is look­ing to in-li­cense or ac­quire ad­di­tion­al drugs for the pipeline, the IPO pro­ceeds are most­ly go­ing to­ward the core pro­gram — in­clud­ing a Phase II tar­get­ing a sub­group of SBS-IF pa­tients with colon-in-con­ti­nu­ity anato­my and proof of con­cept in apraglu­tide’s util­i­ty for gas­troin­testi­nal man­i­fes­ta­tions of graft-ver­sus-host dis­ease.

Santarel­li has quite a bit of skin in the game, hav­ing saved 8.8% of the shares for him­self. Ver­sant and Or­biMed are the largest stock­hold­ers at around 15% each, while oth­ers — FCPI Bpifrance In­no­va­tion, No­vo and Cowen — each have less than 10%.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

$DNA is once again on NYSE; FDA clears Soliris chal­lenger for the mar­ket; Flag­ship’s think­ing big again with eR­NA; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

I still remember the uncertainty in the air last year when nobody was sure whether ASCO would cancel their in-person meeting. But it’s now back again for the second virtual conference, and Endpoints News is here for it. Check out our 2-day event reviewing the landscape of cancer R&D and send news our way.

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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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Gene ther­a­py from Bio­gen's $800M buy­out flops in mid-stage study, deal­ing blow to new am­bi­tions

The #2 candidate from Biogen’s $800 million ocular gene therapy buyout has failed in a mid-stage trial, dealing an early blow to the big biotech’s plans to revitalize its pipeline with new technologies.

Biogen announced that the candidate, an experimental treatment for a rare and progressive form of blindness called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), failed to sufficiently improve vision in patients’ treated eye — patients only received an injection in one eye — after a year, on a standard scale, compared to their untreated eye. The company said they saw “positive trends” on several secondary endpoints, including visual acuity, but declined to say whether the trial actually hit any of those endpoints.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis whiffs on En­tresto study af­ter heart at­tacks — but that does­n't mean it's go­ing down qui­et­ly

If Novartis learned one thing from its interaction with the FDA over its latest heart failure approval for Entresto, it was that missing a primary endpoint may not be the nail in the coffin. Now, Entresto has missed again on a late-stage study in high-risk heart patients, and it’s already sowing the seeds for a path forward regardless.

Novartis’ Entresto couldn’t best standard-of-care ramipril in staving off a composite of deaths and heart failure events in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or pulmonary congestion who have had a prior heart attack, according to topline data from the Phase III PARADISE-MI study revealed Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

Jason Kelly (Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gink­go nabs $DNA, biotech's most sought af­ter tick­er, for free in sweet­en­er from NYSE

When Ginkgo went comparison shopping for a financial market to list their now $15 billion company, the New York Stock Exchange had a back-pocket sweetener the Nasdaq couldn’t offer: The most sought-after ticker in biotech, $DNA.

DNA — the most famous three letters in biology and the ticker for the world’s first biotech, Genentech, from 1999 until it was bought out by Roche for $48 billion in 2009 — will now be the ticker for Ginkgo, a 12-year-old synthetic biology startup with grand ambitions to change not only how drugs, but also everyday products like meat and perfumes, are made.

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Lark­spur Health Ac­qui­si­tion files to go pub­lic as this year's SPAC flood surges over $14B

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

Another day, another SPAC vying for a spot on Nasdaq.

On Wednesday, OncoSec Medical CEO Daniel O’Connor filed the S-1 paperwork for a new blank-check company he’s leading called Larkspur Health Acquisition. The former Advaxis chief penciled in a $75 million raise, with plans to offer 7.5 million shares at $10 apiece.

BAR­DA slows its $9B en­gine for new Covid-19 ther­a­peu­tics

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is cooling its jets in looking for new, potential Covid-19 treatments, at least in the near term.

An HHS spokesperson told Endpoints News via email, “to date, BARDA has obligated more than $9 billion for the development and/or purchase of 13 therapeutics, beginning in February 2020 with support to develop Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapeutic. Therapeutics are an important element of the COVID-19 response, and we are focused on the programs currently underway and/or in negotiation using the funds available to us.”

Bris­tol My­ers backs up its case for heart drug mava­camten as FDA weighs app in car­diomy­opa­thy

When Bristol Myers Squibb signed off on its $13 billion acquisition of MyoKardia back in October, it was making a big bet that lead drug mavacamten could prove a game changer in cardiac myopathy. Now, with the drug up for FDA review, Bristol Myers is backing up its case with new quality of life data.

Patients dosed with myosin inhibitor mavacamten posted a clinically significant increase in scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, a catch-all summary of symptoms and quality of life markers, over placebo at 30 weeks, according to data from the Phase III EXPLORER-HCM study presented Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.