Per­cep­tive's fourth — yes, fourth — SPAC jumps to Nas­daq as the blank check tree con­tin­ues to ripen

The biotech SPAC boom has gone al­most hand-in-hand with the in­dus­try’s IPO gold rush, and this week saw more blank check com­pa­nies hop aboard the train.

James Huang

Lead­ing the way is Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors’ fourth SPAC, ap­pro­pri­ate­ly named Arya Sci­ences Ac­qui­si­tion IV, which priced Fri­day morn­ing af­ter rais­ing $130 mil­lion. And on top of that, new Zio­pharm ex­ec­u­tive chair James Huang is launch­ing his own SPAC with MSD Part­ners and Panacea Ven­ture, fil­ing S-1 pa­per­work Thurs­day with plans to raise $200 mil­lion.

Both moves come as biotech SPAC ac­tiv­i­ty con­tin­ues to speed­i­ly ramp up, with even ec­cen­tric bil­lion­aire Richard Bran­son jump­ing in­to the game ear­li­er this month by tak­ing 23andMe pub­lic.

Joseph Edel­man

Per­cep­tive’s Joseph Edel­man is no stranger to the hold­ing com­pa­nies that have now come to dom­i­nate the mar­ket, how­ev­er, as Arya IV prices just a few weeks af­ter Arya III an­nounced its plans to re­verse-merge with Nau­tilus. The VC firm filed Arya IV’s S-1 just one day af­ter that an­nounce­ment, in­di­cat­ing Edel­man is steer­ing a well-oiled SPAC ma­chine with no plans of slow­ing down.

Much of that foun­da­tion has os­ten­si­bly been built on­ly over the last 12 months. The first Arya ac­qui­si­tion out­fit went pub­lic in 2018, but didn’t find a part­ner un­til March 2020 when it com­bined with TCR play­er Im­mat­ics. That deal helped CEO Harpreet Singh ad­vance their work on cre­at­ing new cell ther­a­pies to go af­ter sol­id tu­mors.

Then, this past Ju­ly, Edel­man found a mar­riage for Arya II with for­mer Pfiz­er spin­out Cerev­el Ther­a­peu­tics. Tony Coles led Cerev­el through murky wa­ters af­ter the Big Phar­ma abrupt­ly shut down its en­tire neu­ro­science di­vi­sion, earn­ing the con­fi­dence of a $350 mil­lion in­vest­ment from Bain Cap­i­tal to ad­vance its work in Parkin­son’s and oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases.

The Arya III merg­er with Nau­tilus then came to­geth­er ear­li­er this month, with the hold­ing com­pa­ny hav­ing filed for an IPO one week af­ter its old­er sib­ling took Cerev­el pub­lic. Those pro­ceeds are be­ing used to ad­vance Nau­tilus’ pro­tein analy­sis plat­form, which has the back­ing of mega­bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos and al­so saw in­vest­ment from the late Paul Allen.

Like its three pre­de­ces­sors, Arya IV is aim­ing to go af­ter biotechs that want to take a quick­er route to Nas­daq than through the tra­di­tion­al IPO route. Arya IV’s pa­per­work of­fered on­ly lim­it­ed in­sight in­to the biotechs it will be tar­get­ing, but not­ed they’re look­ing at com­pa­nies with mar­ket val­u­a­tions be­tween $300 mil­lion and $500 mil­lion, or more, with the po­ten­tial to be worth $1 bil­lion-plus.

Huang’s SPAC, mean­while, comes on the same day that Zio­pharm On­col­o­gy an­nounced its CEO Lau­rence Coop­er is leav­ing the com­pa­ny. Huang joined the Zio­pharm board in Ju­ly 2020 and was elect­ed ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Zio­pharm last month fol­low­ing an ac­tivist at­tack.

SPACs have start­ed mak­ing up more and more of the mar­ket, ac­count­ing for on­ly 3% of the IPO mar­ket in 2014 but swelling to more than 35% last year. It re­mains to be seen how quick­ly ei­ther SPAC can find a part­ner, though, as the num­ber of hold­ing com­pa­nies on­ly con­tin­ues to grow.

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

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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.