Chris Gibson, Recursion CEO (Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Re­cur­sion will take its AI plat­form pub­lic in lat­est IPO fil­ing, while rare heart mu­ta­tion biotech jumps on SPAC train

Ed­i­tor’s note: In­ter­est­ed in fol­low­ing bio­phar­ma’s fast-paced IPO mar­ket? You can book­mark our IPO Track­er here.

The IPO mar­ket con­tin­ues to churn, with a promi­nent AI drug de­vel­op­er be­com­ing the lat­est biotech to reg­is­ter with the SEC.

Re­cur­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals filed its S-1 pa­per­work late Mon­day, com­ing about six months af­ter com­plet­ing a $239 mil­lion Se­ries D round and se­cur­ing a deal with Bay­er worth up to $1 bil­lion. The Salt Lake City-based biotech is pen­cil­ing in a $100 mil­lion IPO raise for now, but could have its sights set on a much high­er fig­ure.

Biotech IPOs have re­mained hot in the first quar­ter fol­low­ing a record year in 2020, when the in­dus­try saw 91 pub­lic de­buts with a col­lec­tive $16.5 bil­lion raised, per Nas­daq. Through the first two and a half months of 2021, the in­dus­try has raised a com­bined $3.81 bil­lion among 22 biotechs that have priced, per the End­points News tal­ly.

And af­ter a brief cool down to­ward the end of Feb­ru­ary, the mar­ket start­ed heat­ing back up again last week when four biotechs priced, mark­ing the sec­ond-busiest week of 2021. That ti­tle, how­ev­er, be­longs to the first cal­en­dar week of Feb­ru­ary, when 10 com­pa­nies went pub­lic.

Re­cur­sion’s Se­ries D marked one of the largest, if not the sin­gle largest, fund­ing rounds for an ar­ti­fi­cial-in­tel­li­gence-fo­cused biotech. The Bay­er deal al­so sig­ni­fied an im­por­tant rev­enue stream for the biotech, with Bay­er promis­ing up to $100 mil­lion in mile­stones for each of up to 10 pro­grams the com­pa­nies could pur­sue.

The com­pa­ny’s AI ap­proach cen­ters around a 100,000 square-foot ware­house in down­town Salt Lake City, where ro­bots take Petri dish­es of dif­fer­ent cell types and knock out dif­fer­ent genes. They’re con­stant­ly tak­ing pic­tures in the process, with the dif­fer­ences be­ing too small for a hu­man eye to dif­fer­en­ti­ate. But their com­put­ers can, and by do­ing so pick up pat­terns to in­di­cate what can make a cell sick and which genes, when tar­get­ed, can make them healthy.

With­in its S-1, Re­cur­sion sig­naled a broad de­vel­op­ment push across its pipeline. The biotech plans to fo­cus the funds on Phase II tri­als for four of its pro­grams: REC-4881 for fa­mil­ial ade­no­ma­tous poly­po­sis, REC-3599 for GM2 gan­gliosi­do­sis, REC-2282 for neu­rofi­bro­mato­sis type 2 and REC-994 for cere­bral cav­ernous mal­for­ma­tion.

There are al­so plans to use some of the mon­ey on six of the biotech’s pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Bat­ten dis­ease, sol­id and hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies and the lead mol­e­cule for the treat­ment of C. dif­fi­cile col­i­tis.

Rare heart mu­ta­tion biotech Ren­o­va­cor rides $116M SPAC to Nas­daq

An­oth­er biotech has gone pub­lic via the SPAC route, which like tra­di­tion­al IPOs, has seen a hefty rise in the in­dus­try over the last year.

Tues­day’s win­ner is Ren­o­va­cor, pulling off a re­verse-merg­er with Chardan Cap­i­tal Mar­kets’ sec­ond blank check com­pa­ny. Once the deal clos­es in the sec­ond quar­ter, Ren­o­va­cor will see pro­ceeds of $116 mil­lion and list on Nas­daq un­der the new tick­er $RCOR.

SPACs con­tin­ue to be all the rage on Wall Street, with sev­er­al no­table back­ers list­ing new hold­ing com­pa­nies and tak­ing them pub­lic re­cent­ly. Fore­site and Per­cep­tive both launched new SPACs ear­li­er this year, and Richard Bran­son took bio­phar­ma by storm when his blank check com­pa­ny merged with 23andMe in Feb­ru­ary.

Ren­o­va­cor’s raise is ex­pect­ed to help the biotech ad­vance its lead pro­gram in­to Phase I/II stud­ies, which is an AAV‑based gene ther­a­py for pa­tients suf­fer­ing from di­lat­ed car­diomy­opa­thy due to mu­ta­tions in the BAG3 gene. An IND sub­mis­sion is ex­pect­ed for mid-2022 with the tri­al be­gin­ning “short­ly there­after,” the com­pa­ny said.

DCM pa­tients are typ­i­cal­ly treat­ed with a cock­tail of treat­ments in­clud­ing ACE in­hibitors, be­ta-block­ers, wa­ter pills and blood thin­ners. Ren­o­va­cor’s ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py is en­gi­neered to re­place the gene to re­store func­tion.

The biotech had raised $11 mil­lion in a Se­ries A back in Au­gust 2019.

Forge Bi­o­log­ics’ cGMP Com­pli­ant and Com­mer­cial­ly Vi­able Be­spoke Affin­i­ty Chro­matog­ra­phy Plat­form

Forge Biologics has developed a bespoke affinity chromatography platform approach that factors in unique vector combinations to streamline development timelines and assist our clients in efficiently entering the clinic. By leveraging our experience with natural and novel serotypes and transgene conformations, we are able to accelerate affinity chromatography development by nearly 3-fold. Many downstream purification models are serotype-dependent, demanding unique and time-consuming development strategies for each AAV gene therapy product1. With the increasing demand to propel AAV gene therapies to market, platform purification methods that support commercial-scale manufacturing of high-quality vectors with excellent safety and efficacy profiles are essential.

Who’s spend­ing and who’s cut­ting from Big Phar­ma’s $127B R&D bud­get? Here are the top 15 play­ers

A couple of the Big 15 biopharma companies in R&D hit the gas on research spending last year. Merck and Sanofi still have lots to prove in the pipeline, and they’re willing to gamble large sums to make a better future for themselves.

Doing nothing would be infinitely worse.

But collectively, the top players rang up a modest 2.4% increase in spending in 2022, which didn’t cover inflationary pressures. And that set the tone for an extraordinarily cautious year for the industry — even as it laid out about $127 billion to advance new drugs or up the ante on approved therapies.

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Jeff Bluestone (R), Sonoma Biotherapeutics CEO

Jef­frey Blue­stone brings his start­up haul to $400M+, join­ing forces with Re­gen­eron on cell ther­a­pies

These days, when Jeffrey Bluestone gets together with his contemporaries in science, the conversation often turns to retirement plans.

But a little more than three years ago, Bluestone reached a momentous turning point in his career, exiting a prestigious post at UCSF, where he had spent decades in the scientific pursuit of new therapies. And it had nothing to do with retirement anytime in the near future.

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Covant acting CEO Matt Maisak (L) and CSO Iván Cornella

With Boehringer In­gel­heim’s help, Roivant churns out an­oth­er Vant to go up against En­deav­or, Im­pact founders

Roivant Sciences has added another branch to its family tree, unveiling Covant Therapeutics with a $10 million upfront commitment from Boehringer Ingelheim to turn up the heat in cancer.

The Boston-based drug discovery startup will jointly create a new small molecule immunotherapy with the private German pharma giant. The deal, made public Tuesday morning, includes up to $471 million in future payments and tiered royalties, should the product make it to market.

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Richard Murray, Jounce Therapeutics CEO

Jounce nix­es Redx of­fer as I/O biotech in­stead goes with Con­cen­tra Bio­sciences’ takeover bid

A minority shareholder has won out in the Jounce Therapeutics takeover battle, with the once-ambitious immunotherapy biotech now choosing to be acquired by Kevin Tang’s Concentra Biosciences rather than follow through with an already-announced deal that would have brought the UK’s Redx onto Nasdaq.

Via its new merger partner, Jounce is expected to get $1.85 per share from Concentra, which was formed by Tang Capital Partners, the owner of about 10% of Jounce shares. Two weeks ago, Concentra laid out a $1.80 per share proposal plus more for the ability to swoop up 80% of proceeds from licenses of legacy programs out of Jounce’s pipeline.

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Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals CEO

Van­da wins court case against FDA over dis­clo­sure of CRL de­tails for sleep drug

DC District Court Judge Christopher Cooper today granted Vanda Pharma’s request to require the FDA to disclose more info on the complete response letter for its sleep disorder drug Hetlioz.

The melatonin receptor agonist is approved by the FDA to treat non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, a circadian rhythm disorder. But in 2018 Vanda filed a supplemental application to market Hetlioz as a treatment for jet lag, which the FDA rejected in August 2019, with few details on what Vanda needed to correct course, according to the company.

Sally Susman, Pfizer EVP and chief corporate affairs officer

Q&A: Pfiz­er cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief Sal­ly Sus­man dis­cuss­es book craft­ed in pan­dem­ic and per­son­al lessons

From the political arena to the finance and beauty industries to pharmaceuticals, Pfizer’s Sally Susman has broken barriers, stereotypes and conventions. And now the chief communicator is “Breaking Through,” the title of her first book about effective and innovative communications launching today. The full official title is “Breaking Through: Communicating to Open Minds, Move Hearts, and Change the World.”

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Max Colao, OncoVerity CEO

Tiny mul­ti­omics biotech se­cures for­mer J&J drug, new ex­ecs and new fi­nanc­ing

A new spinout from Belgium’s argenx seeks to give new life to a candidate once in-licensed to J&J.

OncoVerity announced Monday afternoon that it had in-licensed cusatuzumab from argenx. The biotech also appointed two new C-suite executives and secured a $30 million Series A round.

CEO Max Colao joins OncoVerity after working as Aurinia’s commercial chief, and stints at Alexion and Amgen. New CMO Clay Smith has been associate chief of the University of Colorado’s hematology division.

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Kevin Lee, Bicycle Therapeutics CEO

No­var­tis rides with Bi­cy­cle for new pact on tar­get­ed ra­dio­ther­a­pies

Novartis has inked a three-year deal with Bicycle Therapeutics to develop new targeted radiotherapies for cancer.

Novartis will pay Bicycle $50 million upfront, with downstream milestones adding up to a potential $1.7 billion. In exchange, Bicycle will use its virus-based platform to discover new bicyclic peptides, which it calls bicycles, that would be used for radiotherapies. Those bicycles would act as a homing beacon for radioactive isotopes, delivering them to cancer cells to kill the cells while limiting radiation to healthy tissue.

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