Sanofi fi­nal­ly man­ages to close on a buy­out – but it’s not a game chang­er

Sanofi $SNY has fi­nal­ly man­aged to com­plete a buy­out — though it’s a far cry from the kind of trans­for­ma­tion­al block­buster deal it’s been on the hunt for.

Af­ter miss­ing out on auc­tions for Medi­va­tion and Acte­lion, the French phar­ma gi­ant has snagged Pro­tein Sci­ences and its quadri­va­lent flu vac­cine Flublock, ap­proved last fall. Sanofi is pay­ing $650 mil­lion in cash and of­fer­ing up $100 mil­lion more in mile­stones.

The com­pa­ny will now be­come part of the Sanofi Pas­teur busi­ness, which had seen the flu vac­cine from Pro­tein Sci­ences as a ri­val.

The Meri­den, CT-based biotech had de­vel­oped the vac­cine us­ing a process that doesn’t re­quire eggs, bank­ing on in­sect cells in­stead in a process that helped it gain a rep as the vac­cine of choice among peo­ple who are al­ler­gic to eggs. But that’s not the mar­ket they were look­ing for. In­stead, by tack­ling four strains of the flu virus, the com­pa­ny looked to broad­en its ap­peal and of­fered up da­ta to back up its claims as a more re­li­able choice — with more ac­tive in­gre­di­ent — than vac­cines from Sanofi and Glax­o­SmithK­line for old­er peo­ple and in­di­vid­u­als with a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem.

Sanofi’s new deal will not be close to enough to sat­is­fy an­a­lysts and in­vestors who be­lieve that CEO Olivi­er Brandi­court needs to find a game-chang­ing deal to help re­vive its for­tunes. Brandi­court, though, has been re­luc­tant to pay the block­buster prices that biotechs fetch these days. Sanofi has re­port­ed­ly been in­volved in takeover talks with Flex­ion $FLXN, but so far there’s been no deal and the biotech’s share price fell back to earth as ex­pec­ta­tions grad­u­al­ly de­flat­ed.

“Pro­tein Sci­ences was ac­tive­ly look­ing for an op­por­tu­ni­ty to grow its busi­ness, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the US,” said Manon MJ Cox, the CEO at Pro­tein Sci­ences, in a pre­pared state­ment. “As part of Sanofi Pas­teur, we ex­pect our Flublok in­fluen­za vac­cine to ben­e­fit from Sanofi Pas­teur’s ex­per­tise in the field of in­fluen­za vac­cines.”

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Forget 1 billion. AstraZeneca is now promising to supply 2 billion doses of Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine around the world per year.

Three new partners are coming on board to help reach that goal, as well as a broader vision to ensure access for nations that have been largely left out of the bargaining table.

CEPI — the coalition that’s been doling out grants to support other vaccine projects — is providing $383 million to support manufacturing of 300 million doses, while Gavi the Vaccine Alliance will chip in $367 million and be in charge of the procurement and distribution, a spokesperson told Wall Street Journal. A separate licensing agreement directs the Serum Institute of India to produce 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries, with the first 400 million due before the end of the year.

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture

At­las rais­es new $400M fund amid spree of VC rais­es. Here’s what they’ll spend it on

You can add another few hundred million to the now Montana-sized reservoir of cash biotech VCs have raised since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Atlas Venture, the prominent Kendall Square incubator, has raised $400 million for its twelfth biotech fund, their first in 3 years. After a string of mammoth new raises from other major VCs in April and May, the total pot now stands between $5 billion and $6 billion, depending on how you slice it.

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José Basel­ga finds promise in new class of RNA-mod­i­fy­ing can­cer tar­gets, lock­ing in 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams with $55M

Having dived early into some of the RNA breakthroughs of the last decades — betting on Moderna’s mRNA tech and teaming up with Silence on the siRNA front — AstraZeneca is jumping into a new arena: going after proteins that modify RNA.

Their partner of choice is Accent Therapeutics, which is receiving $55 million in upfront payment to steer a selected preclinical program through to the end of Phase I. After AstraZeneca takes over, the Lexington, MA-based startup has the option to co-develop and co-commercialize in the US — and collect up to $1.1 billion in milestones in the long run. The deal also covers two other potential drug candidates.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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