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.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Kite Phar­ma gets FDA to sign off on new Cal­i­for­nia-based vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Kite Pharma just got FDA approval to kick off operations at a new manufacturing campus.

The cancer-focused, CAR-T cell therapy player made the announcement Monday, saying that the federal regulatory agency gave the green light to Kite’s 100,000 square-foot, retroviral vector manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA.

Kite’s global head of technical operations Chris McDonald tells Endpoints News that the facility has been in the works for about four years, after Kite teamed up with its parent company Gilead. Gilead acquired Kite Pharma for just shy of $12 billion in 2017.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Bob Duggan (Duggan Investments)

Biotech bil­lion­aire Bob Dug­gan flies the white flag as Sum­mit hunts a new own­er, or part­ner, for sole clin­i­cal-stage ef­fort

Bob Duggan’s Summit Therapeutics $SMMT is running out of moves for its sole clinical-stage candidate.

The biotech issued a terse statement in an SEC filing that it’s pulling the plug on the only active clinical trial for ridinilazole, which has been through a failed late-stage trial for C. difficile. A pediatric study is being curtailed as Summit says it decided a few days ago to either partner out the therapy or get a buyer — if they can find one.

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