New biotech ven­ture fund de­buts with $300M for a mix of US and Eu­ro­pean play­ers


There’s an­oth­er new biotech ven­ture fund in play. And this one is launch­ing with an ex­pe­ri­enced ven­ture play­er at the helm and a clear mis­sion to put its mon­ey in­to US and Eu­ro­pean star­tups look­ing to break new ground in drug de­vel­op­ment.

Wel­come Piv­otal bioVen­ture Part­ners and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Tra­cy Sax­ton. Sax­ton is a vet of both Roche Ven­ture Fund as well as SV Life Sci­ences Ad­vis­ers. And now she’s build­ing a team of six to eight who will be charged with in­vest­ing $300 mil­lion com­ing from Vin­cent Che­ung and the Hong Kong-based Nan Fung Group, an in­flu­en­tial con­glom­er­ate which has been spread­ing its wings be­yond big re­al es­tate projects in­to the biotech world.

In some ways, Piv­otal is the US-based ex­ten­sion of Nan Fung’s glob­al biotech in­ter­ests. And there’s some­thing that Sax­ton and Che­ung have in com­mon. “We both like ear­ly-stage in­vest­ments,” Sax­ton tells End­points News.

Lat­er stages of more de-risked kinds of plays are al­ready well fund­ed in to­day’s biotech world, says Sax­ton, who is based in the Bay Area. She adds this new fund will back 15 to 18 new com­pa­nies, with $15 mil­lion to $20 mil­lion per biotech.

CAR-T, im­muno-on­col­o­gy and CRISPR are all ex­am­ples of the kind of ad­vanced clin­i­cal-stage com­pa­nies she prob­a­bly wouldn’t get too in­volved in. But if you can take some new knowl­edge in, say, im­muno-on­col­o­gy and make it work in im­munol­o­gy, that might get her at­ten­tion. In­fec­tious dis­eases, im­munol­o­gy and rare dis­eases are all fo­cus­es she’s pre­pared to in­vest time and mon­ey in, from pre­clin­i­cal stages on through — pos­si­bly — go­ing as late as Phase I. All of it, though, has to be­gin well ahead of proof-of-con­cept da­ta.

Most of these new in­vest­ments will come for com­pa­nies in the US, but she ex­pects to re­serve about 20% of the cash for Eu­rope. And as the team grows, she’ll start look­ing at op­por­tu­ni­ties for the fund to start seed­ing its own star­tups.

Ever since the 2008 fi­nan­cial pan­ic, the ven­ture scene in biotech has stayed re­mark­ably sta­ble, with large­ly the same set of funds at­tract­ing larg­er and larg­er amounts. This week, though, we’ve sud­den­ly seen three new funds com­ing in­to biotech: Piv­otal is join­ing a de­but al­so marked by Bio­mat­ics and Bill Maris’ Sec­tion 32.

So now there are some fresh sources for star­tups to turn to as ven­ture play­ers con­tin­ue to pump large sums in­to drug de­vel­op­ment.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.

Kelly Martin, Radius Health CEO

VC firms take os­teo­poro­sis drug­mak­er Ra­dius Health pri­vate for al­most $900M

After attacks from activist investors and disappointing returns on share prices, Radius Health has now agreed to new ownership, a direction resulting in leaving the Nasdaq.

Radius Health, a biotech out of Massachusetts with one approved product in its arsenal, announced Thursday morning that it agreed to be acquired by two VC firms: Gurnet Point Capital and Patient Square Capital. The deal, worth around $890 million, will include debt assumption and the payout of $1 CVR per share for investors. And on top of that, OrbiMed is providing debt financing.