Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Ru­ber­tis made no se­cret of IPO plans for Centes­sa, his 10-in-1 lega­cy play. Bare­ly two months lat­er, the S-1 is in.

Francesco De Ru­ber­tis

The hot-off-the-press fil­ing de­picts the same grand vi­sion that the long­time VC tout­ed when he did the rounds in Feb­ru­ary: Take the as­set-cen­tric mind­set that he’s been preach­ing at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech up­starts, with un­re­lat­ed risk pro­files, in­to 1 phar­ma com­pa­ny that can car­ry on the de­vel­op­ment at scale.

They will be do­ing it with­out Mon­cef Slaoui, who was fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the ini­tial press re­lease as chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer and ad­vi­sor. Eject­ed from a promi­nent Glax­o­SmithK­line-af­fil­i­at­ed board seat and all biotech po­si­tions fol­low­ing a “sub­stan­ti­at­ed” case of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment (for which he apol­o­gized), the re­tired Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed chief was nowhere to be seen in the S-1.

Mon­cef Slaoui (AP)

In the doc­u­ment, Centes­sa — helmed by Saurabh Sa­ha, the for­mer glob­al head of trans­la­tion­al re­search at Bris­tol My­ers Squibb — spelled out the nit­ty grit­ty de­tails of fit­ting all the puz­zle pieces to­geth­er. As it turned out, it took 11 Medicxi sub­sidiaries to make Centes­sa (in­clud­ing 2 that even­tu­al­ly merged), and the man­age­ment teams at each one were promised their own in­cen­tiviza­tion arrange­ments for stay­ing on to steer the fleet.

The ini­tial ask for the Nas­daq de­but is $100 mil­lion, but giv­en the $250 mil­lion Se­ries A, you can al­most be cer­tain they’re eye­ing a much larg­er fig­ure than the in­creas­ing­ly un­re­li­able place­hold­er.

Not that Centes­sa is strapped for cash. Of­fi­cial­ly formed last Oc­to­ber, it’s on­ly burned through $3.1 mil­lion by the end of 2020. The deep-pock­et­ed in­vestor syn­di­cate fea­tures Gen­er­al At­lantic, Vi­da Ven­tures, Janus Hen­der­son In­vestors, Box­er Cap­i­tal, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, T. Rowe Price, Ven­rock Health­care Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny, BVF Part­ners, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Franklin Tem­ple­ton, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal and LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners.

So why the rush? The com­pa­ny’s IPO dis­clo­sure sug­gests it was a key part of De Ru­ber­tis’ pitch to the biotech en­tre­pre­neurs as he con­vinced them to come on board.

Di­rect in­cen­tiviza­tion is achieved through two prin­ci­ple fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives: first, through each founder-sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant eq­ui­ty stake in Centes­sa and, there­by, com­pen­sat­ed com­men­su­rate­ly with the Com­pa­ny’s per­for­mance; sec­ond, they dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly share in up­side through cer­tain agreed mile­stones pay­ment of a pre-agreed amount payable up­on de­fined events such as reg­u­la­to­ry ap­proval of an ap­plic­a­ble drug or the pay­ment of a pre-agreed per­cent­age of the net ag­gre­gate cash pro­ceeds from cer­tain strate­gic trans­ac­tions (in­clud­ing part­ner­ships / out-li­cens­ing agree­ments and/or a sale) con­cern­ing the rel­e­vant Centes­sa Sub­sidiary.

In to­tal, the mile­stone pay­ment for a giv­en sub­sidiary can add up to some­where in the “low eight fig­ure range,” to be di­vid­ed among the top ex­ecs and em­ploy­ees.

They in­clude In­ex­ia, a 3-year-old biotech whose as­sets were trans­ferred ear­li­er this year to Orex­ia, which was sim­i­lar­ly fo­cused on nar­colep­sy and now boasts of both oral and in­tranasal orex­in re­cep­tor ag­o­nists to di­rect­ly ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing pathol­o­gy of orex­in neu­ron loss, as well as oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders char­ac­ter­ized by ex­ces­sive day­time sleepi­ness.

Of the 16 pro­grams now in the Centes­sa pipeline, the four clin­i­cal-stage as­sets will re­ceive the largest chunk of cash from the IPO raise. That means fund­ing two Phase III stud­ies for Pal­la­dio’s kid­ney drug lix­i­vap­tan, Apcin­teX’s Ser­pin­PC for he­mo­phil­ia, Pe­gaOne’s an­ti-EGFR im­gatuzum­ab and Z Fac­tor’s ZF874 for al­pha-1-an­tit­rypsin de­fi­cien­cy.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs from 2020.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.