With $270M in new funds, Shankar Ra­maswamy looks be­yond Roivant in scal­ing his gene ther­a­py 'con­sol­i­dat­ed en­gine'

Shankar Ra­maswamy doesn’t in­tend to re­peat the Roivant play­book that his broth­er start­ed eight years ago. In­stead, he wants to con­sol­i­date the gene ther­a­py process and be the go-to shop in a field that has rid­den a rocky road for many years.

Amid a bear mar­ket, he and his 160-em­ploy­ee biotech have reeled in a $270 mil­lion Se­ries C.

“Notwith­stand­ing the broad­er mar­ket con­di­tions, I think we are build­ing a very dif­fer­ent type of com­pa­ny that I think re­sem­bles what we’ve seen in oth­er modal­i­ties, whether it’s in mR­NA, or mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies, or RNAi tech­nolo­gies,” Ra­maswamy told End­points News.

Shankar Ra­maswamy

Those all have “dom­i­nant lead­ers.” Gene ther­a­py, he con­tends, doesn’t, as the field has “suf­fered from frag­men­ta­tion.” Kriya Ther­a­peu­tics, his biotech, wants to be the “con­sol­i­dat­ed en­gine,” Ra­maswamy said.

The Roivant ap­proach that his broth­er em­barked up­on has “pros and cons,” but Kriya doesn’t want to ex­per­i­ment with the Vant-build­ing the­o­ry. In­stead, the younger Ra­maswamy wants to han­dle man­u­fac­tur­ing, re­search, var­i­ous tech­nol­o­gy work and the po­ten­tial gold mine of ther­a­peu­tic de­vel­op­ment un­der one uni­fied com­pa­ny, spread across a 51,000-square-foot fa­cil­i­ty in Re­search Tri­an­gle Park, NC and a unit in Red­wood City, CA.

With more than a dozen ther­a­peu­tic pro­grams in the works, Kriya hopes to en­ter its first hu­man tri­al next year. Ra­maswamy said the four main ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas — oph­thal­mol­o­gy, on­col­o­gy, rare dis­ease and chron­ic dis­ease — are in rel­a­tive tan­dem and will un­der­go clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in par­al­lel.

“[W]e re­al­ly see val­ue in the scale that is nec­es­sary to suc­cess­ful­ly pros­e­cute gene ther­a­py de­vel­op­ment and these dif­fer­ent fo­cus ar­eas ac­tu­al­ly have very close syn­er­gies with one an­oth­er. Where im­prove­ments in the de­sign of a vec­tor in type 1 di­a­betes may have di­rect ap­pli­ca­tion to some of our pro­grams for sol­id tu­mors,” the Kriya CEO said.

The 160-em­ploy­ee com­pa­ny has a pres­i­dent for each of its four core units and mul­ti­ple lead­ers for its core ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas. Lead­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing unit is for­mer AveX­is head of glob­al man­u­fac­tur­ing Britt Pet­ty. There are mul­ti­ple for­mer Vant lead­ers in the house: Melis­sa Rhodes, Ilise Lom­bar­do, Ku­nal Kish­nani, Michele Stone and oth­ers.

In three years, Ra­maswamy, a for­mer chief busi­ness of­fi­cer at Ax­o­vant, has been able to con­vince in­vestors to pump about half a bil­lion dol­lars in­to Kriya. Join­ing Pa­tient Square in the Se­ries C were Blue­bird Ven­tures, CAM Cap­i­tal, Dex­cel Phar­ma, Fore­site Cap­i­tal, JDRF T1D Fund, Lightswitch Cap­i­tal, Narya Cap­i­tal, QVT, Tran­shu­man Cap­i­tal and oth­er names kept un­der wraps. The fi­nanc­ing haul comes 10 months af­ter a $100 mil­lion Se­ries B.

Pa­tient Square man­ag­ing part­ner Jim Mom­tazee called the round “pre­or­dained.”

Jim Mom­tazee

“We were an­tic­i­pat­ing there like­ly would be an­oth­er pri­vate fi­nanc­ing on the back end of the Se­ries B,” Mom­tazee said in a joint in­ter­view with Ra­maswamy.

The in­vestor — a big be­liev­er in the el­der Ra­maswamy who found­ed the SPAC that helped take Roivant pub­lic — said the bear mar­ket wasn’t the gov­ern­ing rea­son be­hind the sizes of the Se­ries C, but rather the vast po­ten­tial in front of Kriya.

“Gene ther­a­py is prob­a­bly the most in­ter­est­ing area of med­i­cine right now,” Mom­tazee said.

Vivek Ra­maswamy

As Ra­maswamy dives in­to gene ther­a­py, his old­er broth­er, Roivant founder Vivek, is launch­ing in­to his next bet be­yond biotech: lead­ing an as­set man­age­ment firm that wants to rid com­pa­nies of pol­i­tics and rather fo­cus on “ex­cel­lence.” That firm peeled back the cov­er last week.

Vivek is not in­volved in Kriya, the com­pa­ny said.

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Gold for adults, sil­ver for in­fants: Pfiz­er's Pre­vnar 2.0 head­ed to FDA months af­ter Mer­ck­'s green light

Pfizer was first to the finish line for the next-gen pneumococcal vaccine in adults, but Merck beat its rival with a jab for children in June.

Now, two months after Merck’s 15-valent Vaxneuvance won the FDA stamp of approval for kids, Pfizer is out with some late-stage data on its 20-valent shot for infants.

Known as Prevnar 20 for adults, Pfizer’s 20vPnC will head to the FDA by the end of this year for an approval request in infants, the Big Pharma said Friday morning. Discussions with the FDA will occur first and more late-stage pediatric trials are expected to read out soon, informing the regulatory pathway in other countries and regions.

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/POLITICO via AP Images)

Sen­ate Fi­nance Chair con­tin­ues his in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to phar­ma tax­es with re­quests for Am­gen

Amgen is the latest pharma company to appear on the radar of Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is investigating the way pharma companies are using subsidiaries in low- or zero-tax countries to lower their tax bills.

Like its peers Merck, AbbVie and Bristol Myers Squibb, Wyden notes how Amgen uses its Puerto Rico operations to consistently pay tax rates that are substantially lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%, with an effective tax rate of 10.7% in 2020 and 12.1% in 2021.

Tony Coles, Cerevel CEO

Cerev­el takes the pub­lic of­fer­ing route, with a twist — rais­ing big mon­ey thanks to ri­val da­ta

As public biotechs seek to climb out of the bear market, a popular strategy to raise cash has been through public offerings on the heels of positive data. But one proposed raise Wednesday appeared to take advantage not of a company’s own data, but those from a competitor.

Cerevel Therapeutics plans to raise $250 million in a public offering and another $250 million in debt, the biotech announced Wednesday afternoon, even though it did not report any news on its pipeline. However, the move comes days after rival Karuna Therapeutics touted positive Phase III data in schizophrenia, a field where Cerevel is pursuing a similar program.

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FDA ap­proves sec­ond in­di­ca­tion for As­traZeneca and Dai­ichi's En­her­tu in less than a week

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu scored its second approval in less than a week, this time for a subset of lung cancer patients.

Enhertu received accelerated approval on Thursday to treat adults with unresectable or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have activating HER2 (ERBB2) mutations, and who have already received a prior systemic therapy.

J&J to re­move talc prod­ucts from shelves world­wide, re­plac­ing with corn­starch-based port­fo­lio

After controversially spinning out its talc liabilities and filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to settle 38,000 lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson is now changing up the formula for its baby powder products.

J&J is beginning the transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio, the pharma giant announced on Thursday — just months after a federal judge ruled in favor of its “Texas two-step” bankruptcy to settle allegations that its talc products contained asbestos and caused cancer. An appeals court has since agreed to revisit that case.

CSL is gathering its four business units under a unified brand identity strategy (Credit: CSL company site)

CSL brings Se­qirus, Vi­for un­der par­ent um­brel­la brand in iden­ti­ty re­vamp

CSL is gathering its brands under the family name umbrella, renaming its vaccine and newly acquired nephrology specialty businesses with the parent initials.

CSL Seqirus and CSL Vifor join CSL Plasma and CSL Behring as the four now uniformly branded business units of the global biopharma. The Seqirus vaccine division was formed in 2015 with the combination of bioCSL and its purchase of Novartis’ flu vaccine business. CSL picked up Vifor Pharma late last year in an $11.7 billion deal for the nephrology, iron deficiency and cardio-renal drug developer.

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Corey McCann, Pear Therapeutics CEO

Pear Ther­a­peu­tics touts Q2 growth while scal­ing back full-year goals and chop­ping 9% of staff

Pear Therapeutics set some ambitious goals back in March, predicting a five-fold boost in revenue and a surge in new prescriptions for its digital therapeutics. Now the company is scaling back those estimates and chopping 9% of its workforce — an all-too-common occurrence in biotech lately.

CEO Corey McCann unveiled Pear’s Q2 numbers on Thursday, touting a 20% quarter-over-quarter revenue growth totaling $3.3 million. That’s more than double what the company made in Q2 2021, and McCann thinks the team could see a nearly four-fold jump in revenue this year, falling in the range of $14 million to $16 million.

Seagen interim CEO Roger Dansey and Daiichi Sankyo CEO Sunao Manabe

Paving the way for Mer­ck­'s buy­out, Seagen los­es ar­bi­tra­tion dis­pute with Dai­ichi over ADC tech

As Seagen awaits a final buyout offer from Merck that could be in the territory of $40 billion, Seagen revealed Friday afternoon that it lost an arbitration dispute with Daiichi Sankyo relating to the companies’ 2008 collaboration around the use of antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) technology.

But that loss likely won’t matter much when it comes to Merck’s deal.

After breaking off its pact with Daiichi in mid-2015, the two companies battled over “linker” tech — a chemical bridge between an ADC’s antibody component and the cytotoxic payload — that Seagen claims Daiichi would improve upon and implement in its current generation of ADCs.