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.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of faceplants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

FDA au­tho­rizes Pfiz­er's vac­cine boost­er for se­niors, those at high risk for se­vere Covid-19

The Biden administration’s goal of kicking off its booster shot drive for the entire US population this week is not quite going as planned.

First, Pfizer applied for approval of a supplemental application for the booster shots, but since last Friday’s adcomm reviewing them, the plan has devolved into an EUA, which the FDA issued late Thursday evening.

The population that is now eligible for the booster, six months after receiving the first pair of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, also narrowed from what Pfizer applied for (everyone who’s eligible for the initial Pfizer shots) to just those who are 65 or older, or at high-risk of a Covid infection, including health care workers and others with occupational hazards.

Stéphane Bancel, AP Images

Fi­nal analy­sis of US-fund­ed Mod­er­na Covid vac­cine tri­al shows 98% ef­fi­ca­cy against se­vere dis­ease

A final look at the results of the placebo-controlled Moderna trial in the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday afternoon, shows how the vaccine continues to prevent Covid-19 and severe cases after more than five months following the second shot.

Of the more than 30,000 enrolled in the trial that ultimately led to the vaccine’s EUA, only two people in the vaccine group got a severe form of the disease, compared to 106 in the placebo group — leading to an efficacy of 98%.

Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline CEO (Credit: Fang Zhe/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

The fire un­der Glax­o­SmithK­line's Em­ma Walm­s­ley grows as an­oth­er well-known ac­tivist in­vestor grabs its pitch­fork — re­port

Bluebell Capital Partners, a proxy brawler fresh off a campaign to oust global food giant Danone’s CEO and most of its board of directors, has bought a stake in UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline with its eyes trained directly on Emma Walmsley, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The London-based hedge fund joins another notorious activist firm in Paul Singer’s Elliott Management, which earlier this year called for a shakeup in leadership at GSK to handle what the company described as a wealth of riches across the drug giant’s portfolio hindered by limited vision from top staff.

Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.

Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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