Soft­Bank bets $1.1B on Roivant CEO Vivek Ra­maswamy’s brash new biotech strat­e­gy

With piv­otal da­ta loom­ing on his first big biotech play, Vivek Ra­maswamy just land­ed a whop­ping $1.1 bil­lion in­vest­ment to back the ex­plo­sive growth of Roivant Sci­ences. And he has a new fledg­ling ‘vant’ to add to the port­fo­lio to­day — his 6th — as Roivant mus­cles up on da­ta analy­sis tech.

Soft­Bank Vi­sion Fund — a mas­sive $100 bil­lion pri­vate eq­ui­ty fund from Japan’s Soft­Bank with huge con­tri­bu­tions from the Saud­is and a slate of tech com­pa­nies like Ap­ple and Sharp — is con­tribut­ing the cash, which in­cludes funds from some of Roivant’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors.

This is the first big biotech in­vest­ment high­light­ed by the Soft­Bank Vi­sion Fund, run by Japan­ese bil­lion­aire Masayoshi Son. The fund has been mak­ing a se­ries of $1 bil­lion plays like this, in­clud­ing a re­port­ed $1 bil­lion wa­ger on the sports e-com­merce com­pa­ny Fa­nat­ics Inc.

“I like bring­ing in a di­verse group of in­vestors in­to Roivant,” Ra­maswamy tells me, not at all averse to the fact that Soft­Bank’s in­vest­ments have been head­ing in­to brash com­pa­nies look­ing to re­shape the in­dus­tries they are in.

This new $1.1 bil­lion in­vest­ment brings Ra­maswamy’s to­tal raise to $2.5 bil­lion-plus in three years, which in­cludes the funds raised from two big IPOs for Ax­o­vant $AX­ON and My­ovant $MY­OV. By any mea­sure, that’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary sum for a group that has yet to see piv­otal da­ta on any of its drugs.

Ra­maswamy tells me that he plans to use the cash to ramp up a whole new group of com­pa­nies, not all of which will be pure biotech plays, like his first five star­tups. He al­so wants to go deep­er in­to new tech­nolo­gies that can im­prove a biotech’s ef­fi­cien­cy.

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that this big new in­vest­ment is com­ing at a time when a full slate of bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies are re­or­ga­niz­ing their R&D groups. What has been a con­stant over the past decade, as Big Phar­ma tried to cre­ate ef­fi­cient R&D groups, has be­come a tidal wave of re­struc­tur­ings. New CEOs at Eli Lil­ly, GSK, Alex­ion, Bio­gen and oth­ers are all in the process of kick­ing loose ear­ly- and late-stage as­sets as they try to cre­ate some ex­cite­ment around their pipelines. That in turn will cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ram­swamy and the biotech en­tre­pre­neurs backed by VCs who like to grab the most promis­ing as­sets and build com­pa­nies around them.

It’s a new busi­ness mod­el, and its day has ful­ly ar­rived. Ra­maswamy will not be hunt­ing for mon­ey to play a glob­al role on this stage.

Num­ber six on Ra­maswamy’s start­up list, Data­vant, will set out to col­lect da­ta from clin­i­cal tri­als, to help his de­cen­tral­ized group of biotechs iden­ti­fy new drugs and de­vel­op them more ef­fi­cient­ly. In many ways, it is a di­rect ex­ten­sion of the work Roivant has been do­ing to find new clin­i­cal as­sets for his star­tups.

The 32-year-old ex­ec has cre­at­ed a com­pa­ny mod­el in which a grow­ing line­up of biotech com­pa­nies op­er­ate un­der one um­brel­la, tap­ping the moth­er ship for core ser­vices like IT. And while most phar­mas like to fo­cus on 2 or 3 or 4 dis­eases, Ra­maswamy wants to go in mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions, mov­ing faster and more ef­fi­cient­ly than the in­dus­try has ever man­aged to achieve.

“We’re open to any dis­ease area we can grow in­to,” says Ra­maswamy, who turns 32 to­day.

The en­gag­ing Ra­maswamy has been pur­su­ing an in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar strat­e­gy in biotech, find­ing loose, late-stage as­sets in phar­ma pipelines that have of­ten ei­ther been aban­doned or side­lined or in need of a part­ner to share the risk on. He did that with a late-stage Alzheimer’s drug from Glax­o­SmithK­line, bagged it for on­ly $5 mil­lion up front and built Ax­o­vant around it. Piv­otal da­ta on the drug is now due in the fall.

The for­mer hedge fund man­ag­er al­so has been re­cruit­ing top tal­ent for his com­pa­nies, un­der­scored by the re­cent ar­rival of David Hung, post the $14 bil­lion Medi­va­tion buy­out, and ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Jack­ie Fouse, who was re­port­ed­ly of­fered the Te­va job and turned it down, pre­fer­ring to run the start­up Der­ma­vant.


Im­age: Get­ty

Con­quer­ing a silent killer: HDV and Eiger Bio­Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals

Hepatitis delta, also known as hepatitis D, is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) that results in the most severe form of human viral hepatitis for which there is no approved therapy.

HDV is a single-stranded, circular RNA virus that requires the envelope protein (HBsAg) of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) for its own assembly. As a result, hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection occurs only as a co-infection in individuals infected with HBV. However, HDV/HBV co-infections lead to more serious liver disease than HBV infection alone. HDV is associated with faster progression to liver fibrosis (progressing to cirrhosis in about 80% of individuals in 5-10 years), increased risk of liver cancer, and early decompensated cirrhosis and liver failure.
HDV is the most severe form of viral hepatitis with no approved treatment.
Approved nucleos(t)ide treatments for HBV only suppress HBV DNA, do not appreciably impact HBsAg and have no impact on HDV. Investigational agents in development for HBV target multiple new mechanisms. Aspirations are high, but a functional cure for HBV has not been achieved nor is one anticipated in the forseeable future. Without clearance of HBsAg, anti-HBV investigational treatments are not expected to impact the deadly course of HDV infection anytime soon.

No­var­tis is ax­ing 150 ear­ly dis­cov­ery jobs as CNI­BR shifts fo­cus to the de­vel­op­ment side of R&D

Novartis is axing some 150 early discover jobs in Shanghai as it swells its staff on the drug development side of the equation in China. And the company is concurrently beefing up its investment in China’s fast-growing biotech sector with a plan to add to its investments in local VCs.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 65,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

No­var­tis is eye­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Med­Co buy­out as Jer­sey biotech nears NDA — re­ports

To get from Novartis’ US headquarters to the Medicines Company, you make a left out of a square concrete building on NJ-Route 10, follow it past the sun orange veranda of Jersey’s Hot Bagels and the inexplicable green Vermont cabin that houses the Whippany Railway Museum until you turn right and immediately arrive at a rectangular glass building. It should take you about 12 minutes.

Reports are out that Novartis may be making that trip. Amid a torrent of Phase III data burnishing MedCo’s chances at a blockbuster cholesterol drug,  Bloomberg News is reporting that Novartis is looking to acquire the Jersey-based biotech.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 65,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: In a land­mark first glimpse of hu­man da­ta from Ver­tex, CRISPR/Cas9 gene ther­a­py sig­nals ear­ly ben­e­fit

Preliminary data on two patients with blood disorders that have been administered with Vertex and partner CRISPR Therapeutics’ gene-editing therapy suggest the technology is safe and effective, marking the first instance of the benefit of the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology in humans suffering from disease.

Patients in these phase I/II studies give up peripheral blood from which hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells are isolated. The cells are tinkered with using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, and the edited cells — CTX001 — are infused back into the patient via a stem cell transplant. The objective of CTX001 is to fix the errant hemoglobin gene in patents with two blood disorders: beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease, by unleashing the production of fetal hemoglobin.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 65,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Badrul Chowdhury. FDA via Flickr

As­traZeneca los­es an­oth­er ex­ec­u­tive to biotech, as Badrul Chowd­hury moves to Savara

Another executive is migrating from the echelons of Big Pharma to the corridors of small biotech.

In April 2018, Badrul Chowdhury took his more than two decades of experience at the FDA to AstraZeneca, where he took on the role of senior vice president and chief physician-scientist for respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity late-stage development in biopharmaceuticals R&D.

After about a year and a half in this role, Chowdhury is moving to a small Texas biotech called Savara, where he will serve as chief medical officer.

Yiannis Kiachopoulos and Artur Saudabayev, co-founders of Causaly

Lon­don AI up­start, which counts No­var­tis as a cus­tomer, can teach your com­put­er to read

When Amazon developed a machine-learning tool to make its recruitment process more efficient — the man-made system absorbed the gender-bias of its human makers, and the project was aborted. In the field of biopharmaceuticals, the way researchers train their machine learning algorithms can skew the outcome of predictions. But before those predictions can be made, the engine must learn to read to make sense of explosive volume of knowledge out there.

Burt Adelman. Novo Ventures

Here's a $25M seed fund aimed at back­ing some brash new drug ideas out of the Broad

As a former academic and a seasoned drug developer, Burt Adelman knew when he was recruited as a senior advisor to Novo Ventures in 2017 that one of his key priorities needs to be introducing the fund to the network he was so deeply embedded in.

“I was thinking long and hard on how can I, as a Boston insider, help Novo really get inside the ecosystem of Boston biotech?” he recalled in an interview with Endpoints News.

Welling­ton lines up a $393M bankroll for its next round of pri­vate biotech bets — and they’re like­ly think­ing big

Wellington Management made some uncustomary waves at the beginning of the year when it threw its considerable weight against Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $74 billion Celgene buyout. But after Bristol-Myers’ biggest investor conceded that game to the influential proxy firms involved, they’re now going to end the year by rolling out a big new investment fund for a new stable of fledgling biotechs on the private side of the industry.

As uter­ine race with Ab­b­Vie heats up, My­ovant eyes FDA ap­proval with tri­al re­sults from prostate can­cer

Myovant has long had a secret weapon in its uterine rivalry with AbbVie: Men.

While the small Swiss biotech has jockeyed with the Illinois-based giant for a foothold in the endometriosis and uterine fibroid therapy market, the company has been developing the same lead compound, relugolix, for use in one of the most common cancers for the uterus-less: prostate cancer. Today, Myovant is out with positive topline results from its big Phase III trial on the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonist. They say they’ve reached every primary and secondary endpoint with p values less than .0001.