David MacNaughtan (Sagard Holdings)

Roy­al­ty Phar­ma gets more com­pe­ti­tion as a pri­vate eq­ui­ty firm launch­es $725M roy­al­ty-buy­ing fund

Pablo’s got some peers.

Twen­ty-five years af­ter Mex­i­can bil­lion­aire Pablo Legor­re­ta start­ed buy­ing up fu­ture roy­al­ties on ap­proved drugs — and eight months af­ter he turned that in­to a record-set­ting $2.2 bil­lion IPO for Roy­al­ty Phar­ma— an­oth­er firm is rais­ing large sums to do the same thing. Sagard Hold­ings, the Cana­di­an in­vest­ment firm, raised $725 mil­lion for a new fund, known as Sagard Health­care Roy­al­ty Part­ners, that will pur­chase roy­al­ties in drugs, di­ag­nos­tics and med­ical prod­ucts.

Sagard joins a small clutch of well-heeled in­vest­ment firms that have tried to fol­low on Legor­re­ta’s suc­cess. Last year, Black­stone dropped $2 bil­lion on Al­ny­lam for a chunk of stock and half their roy­al­ties on in­clisir­an, a No­var­tis drug that is ex­pect­ed to be a block­buster. Al­so in 2020, Health­care Roy­al­ty Part­ners raised a new $1.8 bil­lion fund for the same pur­pose. And the year be­fore, Or­biMed launched their third such pot, this one val­ued at $1.2 bil­lion.

The fund — led by David Mac­Naugh­tan, a long­time in­vestor who led busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Pal­adin Labs be­fore it was bought out by En­do — has al­ready dis­closed a cou­ple of its deals. In Au­gust, Athenex an­nounced that it had sold Sagard a small por­tion of its roy­al­ty rights to an oral ver­sion of the chemother­a­py pa­cli­tax­el for $50 mil­lion. The drug is now at the FDA un­der pri­or­i­ty re­view for metasta­t­ic breast can­cer.

The deal pro­vides an ex­am­ple of the ap­proach Mac­Naugh­tan will look to take in an in­creas­ing­ly com­pet­i­tive space. Rather than the large deals Roy­al­ty Phar­ma has be­come fa­mous for — the firm fa­mous­ly spent $3.3 bil­lion for the Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis Foun­da­tion’s roy­al­ties on Ver­tex’s CF drugs — they will look to spend be­tween $25 mil­lion and $100 mil­lion.

“We are fo­cused on the small­er to mid-sized end of the mar­ket,” Mac­Naugh­tan told End­points News. “Where we would dif­fer from Roy­al­ty Phar­ma — they’re look­ing for bil­lion dol­lar trans­ac­tions.”

Part of that means deals with small­er com­pa­nies and drugs like Athenex and their oral chemother­a­py. But it al­so means go­ing af­ter drugs that have not yet been ap­proved, where the risk and re­ward is greater, and try­ing to find peo­ple and en­ti­ties up and down the drug de­vel­op­ment time­line — such as ear­ly aca­d­e­mics — who might hold roy­al­ties and might be will­ing to sell for a good deal.

There, they’ll be com­pet­ing di­rect­ly with Roy­al­ty Phar­ma, which does both. In par­tic­u­lar, Roy­al­ty has moved in­creas­ing­ly in­to un­ap­proved med­i­cines over the past few years and, in do­ing so, shown a will­ing­ness to ex­e­cute deals that be­gin to dip to­ward the range Sagard is tar­get­ing. Last month, they bought roy­al­ties for a de­pres­sion drug from Min­er­va Neu­ro­sciences for $60 mil­lion, with $95 mil­lion promised in mile­stones.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Dipal Doshi, Entrada Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex just found the next big ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ thing for the pipeline — at a biotech just down the street

Back in the summer of 2019, when I was covering Vertex’s executive chairman Jeff Leiden’s plans for the pipeline, I picked up on a distinct focus on myotonic dystrophy Type I, or DM1 — one of what Leiden called “two diseases (with DMD) we’re interested in and we continue to look for those assets.”

Today, Leiden’s successor at the helm of Vertex, CEO Reshma Kewalramani, is plunking down $250 million in cash to go the extra mile on DM1. The lion’s share of that is for the upfront, with a small reserve for equity in a deal that lines Vertex up with a neighbor in Seaport that has been rather quietly going at both of Vertex’s early disease targets with preclinical assets.

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Christian Itin, Autolus CEO (UKBIO19)

Au­to­lus tips its hand, bags $220M as CAR-T show­down with Gilead looms

The first batch of pivotal data on Autolus Therapeutics’ CAR-T is in, and execs are ready to plot a path to market.

With an overall remission rate of 70% at the interim analysis featuring 50 patients, the results set the stage for a BLA filing by the end of 2023, said CEO Christian Itin.

Perhaps more importantly — given that Autolus’ drug, obe-cel, is going after an indication that Gilead’s Tecartus is already approved for — the biotech highlighted “encouraging safety data” in the trial, with a low percentage of patients experiencing severe immune responses.

WIB22: Am­ber Salz­man had few op­tions when her son was di­ag­nosed with a rare ge­net­ic dis­ease. So she cre­at­ed a bet­ter one

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

Amber Salzman’s life changed on a cold, damp day in Paris over tiny plastic cups of lukewarm tea.

She was meeting with Patrick Aubourg, a French neurologist studying adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD, a rare genetic condition that causes rapid neurological decline in young boys. It’s a sinister disease that often leads to disability or death within just a few years. Salzman’s nephew was diagnosed at just 6 or 7 years old, and died at the age of 12.

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Ahead of ad­comm, FDA rais­es un­cer­tain­ties on ben­e­fit-risk pro­file of Cy­to­ki­net­ic­s' po­ten­tial heart drug

The FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss whether Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug can safely reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure in patients with symptomatic chronic heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil and in development for more than 15 years, has seen mixed results, with a first Phase III readout from November 2020 hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as key to breaking into the market.

Ab­b­Vie slapped with age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit, fol­low­ing oth­er phar­mas

Add AbbVie to the list of pharma companies currently facing age discrimination allegations.

Pennsylvania resident Thomas Hesch filed suit against AbbVie on Wednesday, accusing the company of passing him over for promotions in favor of younger candidates.

Despite 30 years of pharma experience, “Hesch has consistently seen younger, less qualified employees promoted over him,” the complaint states.

Rami Elghandour, Arcellx CEO

Up­dat­ed: Gilead, Ar­cel­lx team up on an­ti-BC­MA CAR-T as biotech touts a 100% re­sponse rate at #ASH22

Gilead and Kite are plunking down big cash to get into the anti-BCMA CAR-T game.

The pair will shell out $225 million in cash upfront and $100 million in equity to Arcellx, Kite announced Friday morning, to develop the biotech’s lead CAR-T program together. Kite will handle commercialization and co-development with Arcellx, and profits in the US will be split 50-50.

Concurrent with the deal, Arcellx revealed its latest cut of data for the program known as CART-ddBCMA, ahead of a full presentation at this weekend’s ASH conference — a 100% response rate among patients getting the therapy. Investors jumped at the dual announcements, sending Arcellx shares $ACLX up more than 25% in Friday’s morning session.

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WIB22: Lead­ing NK cell re­searcher re­flects on roots in Iran, the UK and Texas

This profile is part of Endpoints News’ 2022 special report about Women in Biopharma R&D. You can read the full report here.

In a small but widely-cited 11-person study published in NEJM in 2020, seven patients saw signs of their cancer completely go away after getting a new therapy made from natural killer cells. The study was one of the earliest to provide clinical proof that the experimental treatment method had promise.

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Philip Astley-Sparke, Replimune CEO

Replimune looks to rope in $225M on the back of melanoma da­ta

The Massachusetts-based, oncolytic virus biotech Replimune is feeling bullish now that it has lifted the cover on data for its lead product.

Replimune said Thursday it looks to nab about $225 million from a public offering after giving a snapshot of some initial data from its IGNYTE clinical study earlier this week. The trial is investigating RP1 in combination with Opdivo, for patients with melanoma and who did not have a response when being treated with a PD-1.