Once a multi­bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny, Ova­Science ends a pen­ny­s­tock ve­hi­cle for Mil­len­do's re­verse merg­er

An am­bi­tious fer­til­i­ty com­pa­ny plagued by a se­ries of dis­ap­point­ments is play­ing out its fi­nal act — serv­ing as a ve­hi­cle for an­oth­er ven­ture’s suc­cess. Ova­Science, once val­ued at $1.8 bil­lion for its idea to help old­er women ex­tend their re­pro­duc­tive years, is merg­ing with Ann Ar­bor’s Mil­len­do Ther­a­peu­tics.

The re­verse merg­er is a way for Mil­len­do to back its way on­to the Nas­daq mar­ket, as Ova­Science is al­ready list­ed as $OVAS. Us­ing a near­ly-de­funct pub­lic com­pa­ny as a ve­hi­cle is a fair­ly com­mon way to gain ac­cess to the pub­lic mar­kets with­out go­ing on a lengthy road­show and putting to­geth­er your own IPO. Af­ter the merg­er is wrapped up, the com­bined com­pa­ny will be called Mil­len­do Ther­a­peu­tics, of course, and the new tick­er sym­bol will be $ML­ND.

Ju­lia Owens

A group of in­vestors has come to­geth­er to back Mil­len­do, com­mit­ting $30 mil­lion for af­ter the merg­er is com­plete. The mon­ey comes from New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, and Roche Ven­ture Fund, among oth­ers. The new mon­ey will set up Mil­len­do to push for­ward two pro­grams: ATR-101, in Phase IIb tri­als for con­gen­i­tal adren­al hy­per­pla­sia, a rare en­docrine dis­ease; and a brand new drug to its pipeline called liv­o­le­tide. The lat­ter is a Phase II pro­gram ac­quired from French biotech Al­izé Phar­ma SAS last year. The med is meant to treat a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease called Prad­er-Willi Syn­drome (the most com­mon form of ge­net­ic obe­si­ty). That pro­gram is planned to en­ter Phase IIb/III tri­als in the first quar­ter of 2019.

“We are ex­cit­ed about the op­por­tu­ni­ties cre­at­ed by this merg­er, as it po­si­tions us to be­come a leader in rare en­docrine dis­eases with the fund­ing need­ed to pur­sue the po­ten­tial ap­proval and com­mer­cial­iza­tion of our first-in-class pro­grams,” said Ju­lia Owens, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mil­len­do, in a state­ment.

It’s good news for Mil­len­do, but a sad end for Ova­Science. Ova­Science was found­ed sev­en years ago around the dog­ma-chal­leng­ing claim by a sci­en­tist now at North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ty that he had dis­cov­ered “egg pre­cur­sor” cells in hu­man ovaries that could gen­er­ate new, young eggs for old­er women, po­ten­tial­ly ex­tend­ing re­pro­duc­tive years. Ova­Science’s founders in­clud­ed Boston/Cam­bridge big shots like Rich Aldrich, Michelle Dipp, David Sin­clair and Christophe West­phal.

Ex­tend­ing fer­til­i­ty years was the long goal, but the com­pa­ny’s first lead prod­uct, called Aug­ment, was meant to boost a woman’s chance of preg­nan­cy dur­ing IVF treat­ment. The up­take for that ser­vice was painstak­ing­ly slow, and the com­pa­ny’s stock slow­ly de­clined over the years. One day a multi­bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­ny, the next it’s firm­ly a pen­ny­s­tock.

Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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