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.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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Saurabh Saha at Endpoints News' #BIO19

On the heels of $250M launch, Centes­sa barges ahead with an IPO to fu­el its 10-in-1 Medicxi pipeline

Francesco De Rubertis made no secret of IPO plans for Centessa, his 10-in-1 legacy play. Barely two months later, the S-1 is in.

The hot-off-the-press filing depicts the same grand vision that the longtime VC touted when he did the rounds in February: Take the asset-centric mindset that he’s been preaching at Medicxi over the years, and roll up a bunch of biotech upstarts, with unrelated risk profiles, into 1 pharma company that can carry on the development at scale.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­a­tors to NIH: Do more to pro­tect US bio­med­ical re­search from for­eign in­flu­ence

Although Thursday’s Senate health committee hearing was focused on how foreign countries and adversaries might be trying to steal or negatively influence biomedical research in the US, the only country mentioned by the senators and expert witnesses was China.

Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made clear in her opening remarks that the US cannot “let the few instances of bad actors” overshadow the hard work of the many immigrant researchers in the US, many of which have won Nobel prizes for their work. But she also said, “There is more the NIH can be doing here.”

Steffen Schuster, ITM CEO

Ra­dio­phar­ma re­mains hot as Ger­many's ITM rais­es $109M to ad­vance neu­roen­docrine can­cer pro­gram

The world of radiopharmaceuticals has been heating up over the last few years, and Thursday saw another company focused on the field pull in a new nine-figure raise.

Germany’s ITM, or Isotopen Technologien München, scored a $109 million round of loan financing to push forward its precision oncology pipeline and fund late-stage development for its lead program. As part of the agreement, the loan will convert to shares in the event of future financial or corporate transactions, ITM said.