Roivant un­der­goes ma­jor re­struc­tur­ing, cut­ting and shift­ing its staff

Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Roivant is un­der­go­ing a self-im­posed shake­up, lay­ing off a chunk of its staff and shift­ing oth­ers to its sub­sidiaries. The com­pa­ny has launched two new busi­ness units and a new start­up as part of the over­haul: two units that will man­age new start­up cre­ations un­der the Roivant fam­i­ly, and one drug com­pa­ny with a pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion med in hand.

Vivek Ra­maswamy

The news comes months af­ter Roivant’s sub­sidiary Ax­o­vant im­plod­ed in the face of a late-stage Alzheimer’s flop. As part of the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, Roivant has laid off 10% of its staff, the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment. That in­cludes main­ly HR, IT, and ac­count­ing pro­fes­sion­als do­ing “cen­tral sup­port” func­tions, Roivant said. When asked for de­tails, Roivant said 67 em­ploy­ees were let go (out of rough­ly 700 em­ployed across the Roivant fam­i­ly of com­pa­nies), and 125 were as­signed to its sub­sidiaries. Un­named sources fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter told Fierce­Biotech the shake­up was a “blood­bath.”

“We con­tin­ue to hire in sci­en­tif­ic and busi­ness func­tions at Roivant and across the Vant fam­i­ly; how­ev­er, key op­er­a­tional func­tions will be hired pri­mar­i­ly at the Vants go­ing for­ward,” a com­pa­ny spokesman said in an email.

In a Tues­day an­nounce­ment, Roivant said its formed two new busi­ness units to churn out new star­tups and push ear­ly-stage sci­ence for­ward. First up, it cre­at­ed Roivant Phar­ma to fo­cus on “end-to-end bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny cre­ation in new ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas.” Mayukh Sukhatme, for­mer­ly Roivant’s chief busi­ness of­fi­cer, will head that group up as pres­i­dent.

Sec­ond, Roivant launched Roivant Health, a new busi­ness unit fo­cused on launch­ing com­pa­nies that push med­i­cines to “emerg­ing mar­kets and im­prove the process of de­vel­op­ing and com­mer­cial­iz­ing new med­i­cines through the ap­pli­ca­tion of tech­nol­o­gy.” For that arm, Ben­jamin Zim­mer, who over­saw the launch of Data­vant while head of spe­cial projects at Roivant, will serve as pres­i­dent.

Mayukh Sukhatme

“I am ex­cit­ed to el­e­vate sev­er­al of Roivant’s tal­ent­ed lead­ers to new roles that will en­able them to tack­le new chal­lenges,” Ra­maswamy said in a state­ment. “Our goal is to de­liv­er trans­for­ma­tive in­no­va­tion in health­care. Go­ing for­ward, we will ex­pand the scope of our fo­cus to in­clude the ad­vance­ment of po­ten­tial­ly trans­for­ma­tive as­sets in­to clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, even if they are at ear­li­er stages of de­vel­op­ment than much of our pipeline to date.”

At the same time as all this re­or­ga­ni­za­tion, Roivant al­so not­ed that its launched a com­pa­ny called Al­ta­vant Sci­ences. The com­pa­ny will be de­vel­op­ing a drug called RVT-1201, a po­ten­tial treat­ment for pul­monary ar­te­r­i­al hy­per­ten­sion (PAH) and oth­er in­di­ca­tions. Al­ta­vant will be led by CEO William Symonds, who’s been in se­nior lead­er­ship at Roivant since its 2014 in­cep­tion, most re­cent­ly as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. You might know Symonds from his work over­see­ing the de­vel­op­ment of So­val­di and Har­voni for hep C while at Phar­mas­set and Gilead.

“The stan­dard of care for PAH re­mains in­suf­fi­cient,” Symonds said in a state­ment. “I look for­ward to di­rect­ing the newest mem­ber of the Roivant fam­i­ly as we de­vel­op RVT-1201 in a thought­ful, rig­or­ous, and ef­fi­cient man­ner that draws on best prac­tices de­vel­oped at Roivant in ar­eas in­clud­ing pa­tient en­gage­ment, the use of tech­nol­o­gy in tri­als, and the analy­sis of clin­i­cal tri­al re­sults.”

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

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Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

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Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

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Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

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Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

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