Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

The cash won't stop for Ex­sci­en­tia as it makes a $300M+ Nas­daq de­but

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An AI biotech with lit­tle hu­man da­ta — but lots of hype — is once again drown­ing in cash.

Ex­sci­en­tia priced its IPO late Thurs­day evening, an­nounc­ing it pulled in $304.7 mil­lion with the raise. The pub­lic de­but marks Ex­sci­en­tia’s third nine-fig­ure raise of the year, af­ter the biotech ex­pand­ed its Se­ries C to $100 mil­lion in March and raised more than half a bil­lion dol­lars in a pair of fi­nanc­ings in April. Ex­sci­en­tia shares will be­gin trad­ing Fri­day at $22 apiece un­der the tick­er $EX­AI.

Thurs­day, too, saw Ex­sci­en­tia raise more than just the IPO. In con­junc­tion with the pric­ing, the Ox­ford, UK-based biotech got an­oth­er $160 mil­lion in pri­vate place­ments from Soft­Bank and the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion.

With the de­but, de­tails about the big IPO win­ners are com­ing in­to fo­cus. The biggest share­hold­er is now Soft­Bank, which will get a 16.3% stake af­ter the of­fer­ing. CEO An­drew Hop­kins is sec­ond on the list with 15.8% of shares.

But al­so no­table are the stakes from Evotec, No­vo Hold­ings and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb. Evotec and No­vo will each get about 11-12% of shares when the of­fer­ing clos­es, and Bris­tol My­ers is cash­ing in on an old Cel­gene deal with a 4.7% stake. The Big Phar­ma ex­pand­ed a Cel­gene-era deal with Ex­sci­en­tia ear­li­er this year, promis­ing up to $1.2 bil­lion in mile­stones in May.

The biotech has re­mained busy at the deal­mak­ing ta­ble. Ex­sci­en­tia fol­lowed that up with a small ac­qui­si­tion for the mol­e­cule-screen­ing biotech All­cyte in June — us­ing Soft­Bank’s cash — and less than two weeks lat­er joined forces with EQRx.

AI-fo­cused biotechs have proven large­ly suc­cess­ful at lur­ing in­vestors with bold promis­es about their tech­nol­o­gy, with Ex­sci­en­tia’s ef­forts at the fore­front. The com­pa­ny has promised to cut down on the lengthy drug de­vel­op­ment process by months, if not years, and is join­ing one of its main com­peti­tors on Nas­daq in Re­cur­sion Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

Re­cur­sion’s IPO came in a bit larg­er at $436.4 mil­lion, but both com­pa­nies claimed to plant the im­por­tant AI mile­stone flag — be­ing the first biotech to put an AI-de­vel­oped drug in­to the clin­ic. Re­cur­sion did so in Ju­ly 2019, though the biotech has said the pro­gram came out of Dean Li’s old lab be­fore he joined Mer­ck.

Ex­sci­en­tia, mean­while, made its claim in Jan­u­ary 2020 with a can­di­date de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon. The pro­gram emerged af­ter the pair syn­the­sized 350 com­pounds and test­ed them in a lab be­fore de­cid­ing on one to move for­ward. But re­gard­less of which biotech is re­al­ly the first to de­vel­op a drug with AI, both con­tin­ue to at­tract sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment and part­ner­ships.

Al­so wait­ing in the IPO wings is the ma­chine learn­ing biotech in­sitro, which hasn’t an­nounced plans to go pub­lic just yet but raked in $400 mil­lion in a Se­ries C this past March. Ex­sci­en­tia plans to spend be­tween $50 mil­lion and $75 mil­lion on push­ing its plat­form for­ward, with an­oth­er $25 mil­lion to $50 mil­lion slat­ed to com­plete a Phase I study for EXS21546.

As the cal­en­dar turns to the fourth quar­ter Fri­day, the biotech IPO mar­ket is be­gin­ning to stir once again. Ex­sci­en­tia’s de­but pushed the to­tal com­bined raise past $13.5 bil­lion, per the End­points News tal­ly, and the in­dus­try re­mains on pace to eclipse 2020’s record raise of $16.5 bil­lion. But af­ter a sum­mer slow­down, the race will like­ly come down to the wire.

Clar­i­fi­ca­tion: This ar­ti­cle has been clar­i­fied to more ac­cu­rate­ly re­flect the na­ture of Soft­Bank’s stake in Ex­sci­en­tia. Soft­Bank con­trols the shares, not part­ner Joanne Xu.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

James Peyer, Cambrian CEO

Brent Saun­ders joins $100M Se­ries C for a com­pa­ny out to be the Bridge­Bio of ag­ing

About a year ago, James Peyer, a CEO and co-founder of the little known longevity biotech Cambrian Biopharma, was trying to find some R&D talent last year when he met with more than a bit of experience in that department: David Nicholson, the former R&D chief of the erstwhile pharma giant Allergan.

It turned out Nicholson already had an interest in Peyer’s field. In their Allergan days, he and COO Brent Saunders held weekly meetups where they tried to figure out how to take the company’s dominance in aesthetics — which, until recently, was often what people meant by anti-aging science — and expertise with more traditional drug development, and use it to make drugs that extend people’s lifespan.

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Ugur Sahin, AP Images

As pres­sure to share tech­nol­o­gy mounts, BioN­Tech se­lects Rwan­da for lat­est vac­cine site

BioNTech’s first mRNA-based vaccine site in Africa will call Rwanda home, and construction is set to start in mid-2022, the company announced Tuesday at a public health forum.

The German company signed a memorandum of understanding, after a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, and senior BioNTech officials. Construction plans have been finalized, and assets have been ordered. The agreement will help bring end-to-end manufacturing to Africa, and as many as several hundred million doses of vaccines per year, though initial production will be more modest.

No­var­tis dumps AveX­is pro­gram for Rett syn­drome af­ter fail­ing re­peat round of pre­clin­i­cal test­ing

Say goodbye to AVXS-201.

The Rett syndrome gene therapy drug made by AveXis — the biotech that was bought, kept separate, then renamed and finally absorbed by Novartis into its R&D division — has been dropped by the biopharma.

In Novartis’ third quarter financial report, the pharma had found that preclinical data did not support development of the gene therapy into IND-enabling trials and beyond. The announcement comes a year after Novartis told the Rett Society how excited it was by the drug — and its potential benefits and uses.

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Katie Fanning, Mozart Therapeutics CEO

Mozart Ther­a­peu­tics makes its of­fi­cial de­but, jump­ing in­to the hot Treg R&D field with some big-name in­vestors back­ing it

Treg cells have been getting more and more attention recently among autoimmune specialists. There’s been Jeff Bluestone’s Sonoma, the $157 million launch of GentiBio this summer and Egle Therapeutics — which launched just last week — to name a few.

Now, there’s a new Treg player jumping in that wants to distinguish itself in the market: Mozart Therapeutics. Today, the biotech is emerging from stealth in its official debut with a $55 million Series A — with a bunch of A-list Big Pharma names on board a syndicate led by ARCH.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With San­doz con­tin­u­ing to drag on No­var­tis, Vas Narasimhan says he may fi­nal­ly be ready for a sale or spin­off

After years of rehab work aimed at getting Sandoz in fighting trim to compete in a market overshadowed by declining prices, CEO Vas Narasimhan took a big step toward possibly selling or spinning off the giant generic drug player.

The pharma giant flagged plans to launch a strategic review of the business in its Q3 update, noting that “options range from retaining the business to separation.”

Analysts have been poking and prodding Novartis execs for years now as Narasimhan attempted to remodel a business that has been a drag on its performance during most of his reign in the CEO suite. The former R&D chief has made it well known that he’s devoted to the innovative meds side of the business, where they see the greatest potential for growth.

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FDA is much worse than its reg­u­la­to­ry peers at proac­tive­ly dis­clos­ing da­ta, re­searchers find

The European Medicines Agency and Health Canada continue to outpace the FDA when it comes to proactively releasing data on drugs and biologics the agency has reviewed, leading to further questions of why the American agency can’t be more transparent.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, Yale and other academic lawyers and researchers found that between 2016 and April 2021, the EMA proactively released data for 123 unique medical products, while Health Canada proactively released data for 73 unique medical products between 2019 and April 2021. What’s more, the EMA and Health Canada didn’t proactively release the same data on the same drugs. In stark contrast, the FDA in 2018 only proactively disclosed data supporting one drug that was approved that year.

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