The boom­ing Boston/Cam­bridge biotech hub claims an in­dus­try-lead­ing role — no­body beats it at rais­ing record amounts of mon­ey

If there’s one thing that the biotech hub crowd in Boston/Cam­bridge is par­tic­u­lar­ly good at, it’s rais­ing mon­ey. Af­ter cre­at­ing one of the biggest con­cen­tra­tions of drug de­vel­op­ment op­er­a­tions in the world in and around greater Boston, the mon­ey-rais­ing side of the busi­ness is now hum­ming like a well-oiled ma­chine.

In a new in­dus­try hub snap­shot out this morn­ing, the Mass­a­chu­setts Biotech­nol­o­gy Coun­cil — bet­ter known as Mass­Bio — hap­pi­ly boast­ed about the fact that 48% of all US biotech IPOs oc­curred in­side the state in 2017. In 2016, it was 30%. 

The 15 new­ly pub­lic biotechs from Mass­a­chu­setts that jumped in­to Nas­daq this year have al­ready pushed past the full-year mark for all the IPOs com­plet­ed in 2017. VCs, mean­while, in­vest­ed a record $3.1 bil­lion in Mass­a­chu­setts com­pa­nies last year, with a $2.7 bil­lion flood in the first 6 months of this year which will soon sweep away the record book.

Un­der­scor­ing a glob­al trend, rounds are get­ting big­ger fast, with the av­er­age deal size grow­ing from $34 mil­lion in 2017 to $51 mil­lion in the first half of this year.

The full re­port al­so un­der­scores how fast things con­tin­ue to change at the top. Pulling a list of the top in­dus­try em­ploy­ers from the Boston Busi­ness Jour­nal, this new re­port high­lights Sanofi as the biggest play­er by staff size in the state — which is what you would ex­pect af­ter the Gen­zyme ac­qui­si­tion. But two oth­er top-10 play­ers, Take­da and Shire, are in the process of merg­ing.

That could cre­ate a new num­ber 1 in the the em­ploy­ment are­na, un­less Take­da ends up ax­ing its way back to the num­ber 2 slot.

What’s the mon­ey and the jobs fo­cused on?

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, can­cer grabs the li­on’s share of the at­ten­tion. Here’s their pie chart on the pipeline and the would-be prod­ucts you’ll find in­side:

Why it Works: Man­u­fac­tur­ing a Vac­cine in a Mul­ti-Prod­uct Fa­cil­i­ty.

COVID-19 launched the pharmaceutical industry to the frontline in the battle against the fast-spreading global pandemic. The goal: distribute a safe, effective vaccine as quickly as possible. Major players in the vaccine market needed to partner with contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to achieve the goal of mass vaccine quantities under expedited timelines. With CDMOs stepping up to play a critical role in the vaccine manufacturing process, multi-product CDMO facilities took the spotlight. Partnerships quickly formed as the race to save lives and fight a pandemic was on.

Merck CEO Rob Davis

Mer­ck emerges as lead bid­der in po­ten­tial Ac­celeron buy­out with deal pos­si­ble this week — re­port

With rumors swirling about a potential buyout of biotech Acceleron and its lead PAH drug sotatercept, market watchers have been keeping close tabs on industry movers and shakers due up for an expensive bolt-on. According to a new report, it appears Merck may be the one.

Merck is in “advanced talks” on a deal to acquire Cambridge, MA-based Acceleron in what previous reports pegged as a potential $11 billion buyout, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. A deal could come as early as this week, according to the Journal.

Alexander Lefterov/Endpoints News

The coro­n­avirus vac­cine that the world for­got could still help save it

Back at the beginning of the pandemic — back when we still called the virus “novel” and a single case in Washington state could make headlines — there emerged the story of the coronavirus vaccine that the world forgot.

It was an allegory for our pandemic ill-preparedness. At a time when the world had been caught so flat-footed, there were a pair of scientists who had seen the crisis coming, lab-coated Cassandras with an antidote if only the world had listened sooner.

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Habib Dable, Acceleron CEO

Days of heat­ed ru­mors cul­mi­nate in a re­port that Ac­celeron is in ad­vanced buy­out talks

Days of frothy rumors about possible M&A discussions at Acceleron were capped late Friday with a Bloomberg report asserting that the biotech company is in advanced talks for an $11 billion buyout deal.

Bloomberg was unable to identify any bidders in the deal, but speculation has been running rampant that the surging value of Acceleron stock had to be the result of leaks around the auction of the company. As of early Monday morning, we’re still awaiting the final word.

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Ash Shehata, KPMG

As sup­ply chain wor­ries ease up, Big Phar­ma CEOs have a new top con­cern: re­cruit­ing and keep­ing em­ploy­ees

As the industry goes through a boom, Big Pharma’s CEOs seem to have realized one thing above the rest: It’s time to reward the people doing the leg work.

KPMG, a Big Four accounting network, has compiled a business confidence report for pharma CEOs for the past few years, and while 2020’s report had top executives soul-searching for answers and predictions amidst a chaotic time, it appears that some normalcy, coupled with the skyrocketing growth of the industry, has restored confidence levels at the top.

Safe­ty fears force Pfiz­er to change piv­otal DMD gene ther­a­py tri­al pro­to­col

As one of the biggest players in an increasingly packed gene therapy space, Pfizer has taken an early lead over specialists like Sarepta in taking a Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) candidate into late-stage testing. But new safety fears have led Pfizer to scale back that trial, cutting out patients with certain genetic mutations.

Pfizer has amended its enrollment protocol for a Phase III test for gene therapy fordadistrogene movaparvovec in DMD after investigators flagged severe side effects tied to specific mutations, according to a letter the drugmaker sent to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a patient advocacy group.

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Kevin Boyle, Ziopharm Oncology CEO

Zio­pharm lays off half its staff af­ter man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sues force de­lays

New Ziopharm CEO Kevin Boyle has only been at the biotech for less than a month, but he’s already engineering major changes.

Late Monday afternoon, Ziopharm announced a sweeping restructuring that involved eliminating more than half its workforce and 60 jobs in total. The layoffs were necessary to help the penny stock player refocus its attention on advancing its TCR program, which saw a setback earlier this year after “unforeseen delays” at a contract manufacturer, Ziopharm said.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys, Pool via AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech sub­mit vac­cine da­ta to FDA for younger chil­dren; Doc­tors kept pre­scrib­ing hy­drox­y­chloro­quine

Pfizer and BioNTech said Tuesday they submitted to FDA positive data from a Phase II/III trial of their Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 5 to less than 12 years old.

A formal EUA submission for the vaccine in these children is expected to follow “in the coming weeks,” the companies said in a statement.

The trial of 2,268 healthy participants aged 5 to less than 12 years old showed the vaccine was safe and elicited robust neutralizing antibody responses using a two-dose regimen of 10 μg doses, which is one-third the dose that’s administered to adults.

From left to right: Mark Springel, Kristina Wang, Lin Ao, Soufiane Aboulhouda

George Church, his stu­dents, and top VCs go na­tion­wide with a biotech train­ing camp

One night last fall, Floris Engelhardt sat down in her Boston apartment and logged onto a Zoom call, armed with a comic and a vague idea about starting a biotech.

Engelhardt was joining a student-run “match night.” A postdoc at MIT’s Bathe BioNanoLab, where researchers use DNA and RNA like Lego blocks for nanometer-sized structures, Engelhardt wanted to find real-world applications for her work. She sketched out — literally — a plan to use DNA origami, a decade-old technique for precisely folding DNA, to make therapies.

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