Presto! Wall Street ma­gi­cian Vivek Ra­maswamy has an­oth­er in­stant biotech IPO to sell you

A pair of biotechs are look­ing to raise more than $250 mil­lion through IPOs, slip­ping in­to the short queue on the last work­ing day of Q3. One is from a Bermu­da-based ad­ven­tur­er with a knack for shak­ing loose cheap, late-stage as­sets from phar­ma’s R&D shelves and the oth­er is a ven­ture-backed play­er with plans to carve out a share of a block­buster fran­chise.

The first is My­ovant Sci­ences, an­oth­er in­stant-mix biotech from the 30-year-old for­mer hedge fund man­ag­er Vivek Ra­maswamy. This time, the young fi­nancier has con­jured a com­pa­ny with a re­spect­ed sci­en­tist at the helm and for­mer HHS Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius on the board.

Ra­maswamy made waves dur­ing the wan­ing days of the biotech boom last year by grab­bing a failed Alzheimer’s drug from Glax­o­SmithK­line for a song, then rais­ing an eye-pop­ping $315 mil­lion in an IPO Ax­o­vant is us­ing to pay for a re­vised Phase III tri­al, look­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on a sliv­er of pos­i­tive re­sults spied in the clin­ic while trans­form­ing a shelved ther­a­py in­to an overnight for­tune. Ra­maswamy told Forbes that he wants to be­come the Berk­shire Hath­away of biotech. But in­stead of in­vest­ing heav­i­ly in uni­ver­sal­ly known con­sumer prod­ucts, he’s grab­bing risky drug de­vel­op­ment pro­grams and look­ing for a quick score in Phase III.

In­vestors have been eat­ing it up, so far. And Ra­maswamy now has a $172.5 mil­lion IPO feast planned for My­ovant, which was whipped up last June.

My­ovant’s as­sets are com­ing from Take­da, which is un­der­go­ing a top-to-bot­tom R&D over­haul that shook out re­l­u­golix. Picked up at the end of Phase II, My­ovant is look­ing for cash to pay for a Phase III ef­fort that in­cludes a trio of late-stage stud­ies for uter­ine fi­broids, en­dometrio­sis-as­so­ci­at­ed pain and prostate can­cer. Its sec­ond drug is RVT-602, an oligopep­tide kisspeptin ana­log for the treat­ment of fe­male in­fer­til­i­ty.

Ra­maswamy had to pay GSK $5 mil­lion for its Alzheimer’s drug, lunch mon­ey in the bio­phar­ma world, but the S-1 re­veals that he didn’t need cash for the Take­da drug. Ac­cord­ing to the S-1, Take­da ac­cept­ed about $7.7 mil­lion worth of stock and a war­rant – val­ued at $5.3 mil­lion – that guar­an­tees the Japan­ese com­pa­ny a 12% eq­ui­ty stake in the com­pa­ny for a lim­it­ed amount of time.

Take­da, mean­while, is run­ning a pair of its own Phase III tri­als for re­l­u­golix, which it plans to use for a mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion in Japan. And My­ovant has the right to use Take­da’s da­ta in its own NDA in the U.S.

Not a drug de­vel­op­er, Ra­maswamy re­cruit­ed Lynn Seely from Medi­va­tion to run the start-up show, which now in­cludes a to­tal of 9 staffers work­ing un­der Ra­maswamy’s um­brel­la group. Seely, the for­mer CMO at Medi­va­tion, has plen­ty of mar­ket cred­i­bil­i­ty as a de­vel­op­er, as Pfiz­er’s $14 bil­lion takeover of Medi­va­tion in Au­gust helped prove.

Like Take­da, Seely was al­so wooed with stock. Seely picked up 2 mil­lion shares (2.6% of the com­pa­ny) when she start­ed and is in line for an­oth­er mil­lion shares in a year, which all vest over time. Se­be­lius’s board po­si­tion should al­so add some heft to the com­pa­ny’s rep.

Ra­maswamy’s record Ax­o­vant IPO was com­plet­ed at the tail end of the go-go pe­ri­od for biotech stocks, but he’ll have to con­tend with a dif­fer­ent mar­ket now, with gen­er­al­ists on the side­lines and in­sid­ers ex­pect­ed to do much of the pur­chas­ing. Some re­cent IPOs have been do­ing well, though, which per­haps in­di­cates that Ra­maswamy’s tim­ing is still good.

Cam­bridge, MA-based Ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which has a big block­buster in its sights, is fac­ing the same sit­u­a­tion. The folks at Ra sim­ply be­lieve that they have a bet­ter pep­tide chem­istry plat­form to make a new and im­proved C5 in­hibitor that will prove safer and more ef­fec­tive than Soliris, the most ex­pen­sive ther­a­py in the U.S., which is mar­ket­ed by Alex­ion. And they’re us­ing that ar­gu­ment in an IPO that pen­cils in an $86 mil­lion haul in the S-1.

Like Soliris, their drug is be­ing de­vel­oped for the rare blood dis­or­der parox­ys­mal noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria, or PNH. And the biotech plans to use that lead pro­gram, now poised at the thresh­old of Phase II, to break a path for a pipeline of drugs that ad­dress ail­ments as­so­ci­at­ed with dys­func­tion of the com­ple­ment sys­tem com­po­nent of the im­mune sys­tem. That’s a rich ar­ray of tar­gets, rang­ing from CNS dis­eases to rare blood, neu­ro­log­ic, oph­thal­mo­log­ic, re­nal and in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tions.

RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, No­vo Ven­tures, and Light­stone Ven­tures led a $58.5 mil­lion crossover round last sum­mer, jump­ing in­to a syn­di­cate that in­clud­ed new in­vestors Rock Springs Cap­i­tal and Limu­lus Ven­ture Part­ners. A pro­lif­ic New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund, Mor­gen­thaler Ven­tures and Am­gen Ven­tures fund­ed the start­up, which says it has enough mon­ey to get through the first half of 2017 with­out new fund­ing.

Ra Phar­ma and My­ovant are both lin­ing IPOs up along­side CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics, a gene edit­ing com­pa­ny which hopes to see some of the same mar­ket suc­cess ex­pe­ri­enced by Ed­i­tas and In­tel­lia.

Albert Bourla appears before the Senate Committee on Finance for a hearing on prescription drug pricing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 26, 2019. Chris Kleponis for CNP via AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er CEO Al­bert Bourla is back in the M&A game, but why is he pay­ing $11.4B for Ar­ray?

Pfiz­er $PFE has cut short its time on the side­lines of bio­phar­ma M&A.

Mon­day morn­ing the phar­ma gi­ant un­veiled an $11.4 bil­lion deal to ac­quire Ar­ray Bio­Phar­ma, beef­ing up its on­col­o­gy work and adding a new re­search hub in Boul­der, Col­orado to its glob­al op­er­a­tions.

At $48 a share, Ar­ray $AR­RY in­vestors will be get­ting a 62% pre­mi­um off the Fri­day close of $29.59.

Pfiz­er, which has strug­gled to gain all the up­side promised in past buy­outs like Medi­va­tion, high­light­ed the ac­qui­si­tion of 2 ap­proved drugs in the deal — Braftovi (en­co­rafenib) and Mek­tovi (binime­tinib).

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Gene ther­a­py R&D deals turn red hot as Big Phar­ma steps up to play

This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Jesse Gelsinger, a young man suffering from X-linked genetic disease of the liver. He was killed in a gene therapy study conducted by Penn’s James Wilson, and the entire field endured a lengthy deep freeze as the field grappled with the safety issues inherent in the work.

Some thought gene therapy R&D would never survive. But it did. And this year marked a landmark approval for Zolgensma, a new gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy Novartis priced at $2.1 million.

“Gene therapy is the hottest item on the block now. But there was a time when we first got into this trial, where there wasn’t a person in the world who believed that gene therapy would work. We have to remember that,” noted gene therapy investigator Jerry Mendell told SMA News Today.

We’re still right on the pioneering frontier when it comes to getting approvals for gene therapies and launching marketing campaigns with the European green light for bluebird's leading program last Friday underscoring the nascent nature of the field. But gene therapy R&D is booming, and has been for several years now.

The rapid growth of gene therapy clinical development is well known, but we decided to put some numbers on it, to quantify what’s going on. DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar took a lot over the past 10 years, as the number of deals, R&D partnerships and buyouts steadily gained steam, spiking last year and on track to maintain the surge in 2019.

The upfronts and totals for the dollars on deals so far in 2019 is already close to the 2018 mark, underscoring a new phase of negotiations as the major players step up to gain a piece of the late-stage and commercial action.

Once again, we’re looking at an “overnight” biotech success story, decades in the making.

At some point, that may start to brake the numbers we’re seeing. But for now, as rivals line up to compete for frontline prominence across a range of diseases, the arrows are all pointed north.

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A uni­corn stalks Wall Street in search of IPO cash; CASI Phar­ma in-li­cens­es CD19 ther­a­py from Chi­na’s Ju­ven­tas

→ A herd of up­start biotechs will look to Wall Street for some ma­jor wind­falls this week as a burst of new of­fer­ings con­tin­ues to feed cash in­to the R&D sys­tem. To­day we learned that Bridge­Bio will look to raise in the neigh­bor­hood of $225 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 15 mil­lion shares for $14 to $16 each. And they have a string of joint bookrun­ners: J.P. Mor­gan, Gold­man Sachs, Jef­feries, SVB Leerink, KKR, Piper Jaf­fray, Mizuho Se­cu­ri­ties, BMO Cap­i­tal Mar­kets and Ray­mond James. If suc­cess­ful, Bridge­Bio will emerge with a mar­ket cap of around $1.7 bil­lion. There are 5 biotechs look­ing to IPO this week, in­clud­ing Akero and Pre­vail.

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi Gen­zyme deserts gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­er Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics

While gene ther­a­py com­pa­nies re­joice as the sec­tor gains trac­tion with ap­provals and a flur­ry of M&A ac­tiv­i­ty, one play­er is feel­ing the heat.

Back in 2015, Voy­ager Ther­a­peu­tics joined forces with Sanofi Gen­zyme in a deal worth up to $845 mil­lion ($100 mil­lion up­front + a po­ten­tial $745 mil­lion in mile­stones) to co-de­vel­op gene ther­a­pies for se­vere cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem dis­or­ders. But two years lat­er, the French drug­mak­er re­treat­ed, elect­ing to not pick up the op­tion to work on Voy­ager’s Parkin­son’s dis­ease pro­gram. (Last year, the FDA dis­ap­point­ed Voy­ager, telling the com­pa­ny that it was not open to an ac­cel­er­at­ed fil­ing on the Parkin­son’s drug on the ba­sis of Phase II da­ta — in­stead of re­quir­ing an ad­di­tion­al piv­otal study.)

In­vestors fret as VBI's hep B vac­cine fails key sec­ondary PhI­II study goal

Sobered by mount­ing costs, Dy­navax $DVAX last month made the de­ci­sion to fo­cus all its re­sources on its 2017-ap­proved he­pati­tis B vac­cine Hep­lisav-B, which ri­vals and su­per­sedes the ef­fi­ca­cy and con­ve­nience pro­file of GSK’s $GSK es­tab­lished En­ger­ix-B. The Cal­i­for­nia-based com­pa­ny will be on the look­out for an­oth­er com­peti­tor — VBI Vac­cines, which on Mon­day un­veiled late-stage da­ta on its hep B vac­cine: Sci-B-Vac.

John Oyler, Founder & CEO of BeiGene, at the US-China Biopharma Innovation and Investment Summit in Shanghai on October 23, 2018; Credit: Endpoints News, PharmCube

UP­DAT­ED: As Bris­tol-My­ers/Cel­gene tie up loose ends, BeiGene pock­ets $150M from PD-1 breakup

As soon as Bristol-Myers Squibb announced its $74 billion buyout for Celgene, BeiGene emerged as a prominent example of a player whose pact with the big biotech could sour, as its PD-1 candidate seems to overlap with Opdivo. After six months of suspense, the partners say they are finally bringing the 2-year-old deal to an amicable end.

BeiGene $BGNE gets $150 million for the termination in addition to full global rights to tislelizumab. In 2017 Celgene had paid $263 million in upfront license fees to develop the PD-1 inhibitor for solid cancers in the US, Europe, Japan and the rest of the world outside Asia. It also threw in a $150 million equity investment in exchange for BeiGene handling its commercial operations — think Abraxane, Revlimid and Vidaza — in China.

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Exterior of the 1 million square foot Discovery Labs in Upper Merion, PA (PR Newswire)

Philadel­phia cham­pi­ons life sci­ences 'co-work­ing,' re­viv­ing for­mer GSK cam­pus in $500M makeover

In a boost to Philadel­phia’s thriv­ing life sci­ences scene, a for­mer Glax­o­SmithK­line cam­pus and a near­by site has been turned in­to what its de­vel­op­er calls “the largest cowork­ing ecosys­tem” for health­care com­pa­nies in the coun­try.

The Dis­cov­ery Labs, a com­pa­ny spawned by MLP Ven­tures, has se­lect­ed two lo­ca­tions in the King of Prus­sia area as the $500 mil­lion test case for its strat­e­gy of ac­quir­ing and con­vert­ing old phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal R&D fa­cil­i­ties world­wide. The sites add up to 1.64 mil­lion square feet.

Neil Woodford, Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Un­der siege, in­vest­ment man­ag­er Wood­ford faces an­oth­er in­vest­ment shock

Em­bat­tled UK fund man­ag­er Neil Wood­ford — who has con­tro­ver­sial­ly blocked in­vestors from pulling out from his flag­ship fund to stem the blood­let­ting, af­ter a slew of dis­ap­point­ed in­vestors fled fol­low­ing a se­ries of sour bets — is now pay­ing the price for his ac­tions via an in­vestor ex­o­dus on an­oth­er fund.

Har­g­reaves Lans­down, which has in the past sold and pro­mot­ed the Wood­ford funds via its re­tail in­vest­ment plat­form, has re­port­ed­ly with­drawn £45 mil­lion — its en­tire po­si­tion — from the in­vest­ment man­ag­er’s In­come Fo­cus Fund.


Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics poised to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tion for ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval, with new piv­otal da­ta on its sick­le cell dis­ease drug

Global Blood Therapeutics is set to submit an application for accelerated approval in the second-half of this year, after unveiling fresh data from a late-stage trial that showed just over half the patients given the highest dose of its experimental sickle cell disease drug experienced a statistically significant improvement in oxygen-wielding hemoglobin, meeting the study's main goal.

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