Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO (glen photo/Shutterstock)

Soft­Bank claims $5B stake in Roche amid grand plans to in­vest in biotech — re­ports

Soft­Bank has made a some­what sur­pris­ing choice in its bid to pour bil­lions in­to biotech and health­care.

The Japan­ese be­he­moth has qui­et­ly ac­quired a $5 bil­lion stake in Roche, mak­ing it one of the Swiss phar­ma gi­ant’s largest in­vestors, Bloomberg re­port­ed. The Fi­nan­cial Times lat­er con­firmed the news.

The move marks a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture from Soft­Bank’s pre­vi­ous strat­e­gy of chan­nel­ing biotech in­vest­ments through its Vi­sion Fund in­to ear­ly-stage star­tups such as Vir, Sana, XtalPi, Umo­ja and Ex­sci­en­tia. It al­so placed a siz­able bet on Roivant back in 2017, lead­ing a $1.1 bil­lion round, long be­fore Vivek Ra­maswamy and his suc­ces­sor, Matt Gline, land­ed a SPAC merg­er at a val­u­a­tion of $7 bil­lion.

But that deal still pales in com­par­i­son to the re­port­ed Roche in­vest­ment, which was re­port­ed­ly done through SB North­star — the unit tasked with seek­ing out pub­lic com­pa­nies.

Launched in 2020, SB North­star was con­ceived as a stur­dy pil­lar of Soft­Bank’s as­set man­age­ment ef­forts and had sparked con­tro­ver­sy for its trades in de­riv­a­tives. Soft­Bank founder (and bil­lion­aire in­vestor) Masayoshi Son per­son­al­ly owns a one-third stake.

A big dri­ving fac­tor be­hind the wa­ger, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg’s sources, is Soft­Bank’s be­lief that Roche sub­sidiary Genen­tech — which has hired com­pu­ta­tion­al bi­ol­o­gy gu­ru Aviv Regev to spear­head R&D — is high­ly un­der­val­ued. Through a se­ries of re­cent ac­qui­si­tions, in­clud­ing that of Flat­iron Health and Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine, Roche has al­so bol­stered its in­fra­struc­ture for pur­su­ing pre­ci­sion med­i­cine as it can now lever­age a com­bi­na­tion of da­ta, di­ag­nos­tics and an­a­lyt­ics to de­vel­op new can­cer drugs.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Rahul Singhvi, Resilience CEO

A Bob Nelsen start­up turns to Har­vard to help sharp­en its tech, in­spir­ing first spin­out

One of Bob Nelsen’s latest projects is headed to Harvard.

Resilience, a company started with the goal of establishing itself as a “one-stop-shop” for companies looking to scale manufacturing, including for hard-to-develop cell and gene therapies, is less than a year old. Friday, it announced a five-year R&D deal with Harvard University that includes $30 million to develop biologics, including vaccines, nucleic acids and cell and gene therapies.

John Oyler, BeiGene CEO (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bris­tol My­ers wants to pull out of its Abrax­ane deal in Chi­na. BeiGene says no way

A year and a half after Chinese officials ordered BeiGene to stop selling Bristol Myers Squibb’s Abraxane in the wake of an alarming inspection of a US facility, the manufacturing issues at the root of the import suspension still appear unresolved.

And Bristol Myers wants to axe the Abraxane supply deal altogether.

But BeiGene, which is currently in arbitration proceedings against its Big Pharma partner, won’t let it off the hook so easily.

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.