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.
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.
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.