Suren Ajjarapu (TRxADE Health)

The next SPAC is here, com­ing from a phar­ma e-com­merce CEO, as a Flori­da biotech prices at the low end

The newest health­care blank-check com­pa­ny has ar­rived, com­ing from the CEO of a com­pa­ny that is at­tempt­ing to shake up the dig­i­tal phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal space.

The SPAC known as Aes­ther Health­care Ac­qui­si­tion filed for its ini­tial of­fer­ing late Mon­day, putting down $100 mil­lion as its raise es­ti­mate. Led by Suren Aj­jara­pu, chief ex­ec­u­tive of on­line drug mar­ket­place TRx­ADE Health, the SPAC is tar­get­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, medtech and health­care IT.

Per the S-1, Aj­jara­pu cur­rent­ly con­trols all shares of the SPAC, but once it prices he will on­ly own 20%.

Aj­jara­pu got his com­pa­ny start­ed back in 2010 with the goal of giv­ing phar­ma­cies more pow­er in sell­ing their pre­scrip­tion drugs. Based out of Land o’ Lakes, FL, TRx­ADE boasts of price com­pe­ti­tion with e-com­merce gi­ants like Ama­zon and eBay, claim­ing it has dozens of drug whole­salers that al­low mem­bers to save tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Much of the SPAC’s team is made up of Aj­jara­pu’s col­leagues at TRx­ADE and oth­er com­pa­nies in which he serves as a board mem­ber. The TRx­ADE CFO is al­so join­ing as the SPAC’s fi­nances head, and Aj­jara­pu has crossed paths with two oth­er board mem­bers.

In ad­di­tion to TRx­ADE, Aj­jara­pu has worked with sev­er­al com­pa­nies in the nat­ur­al gas bio­fu­els in­dus­tries.

With­in the S-1, the SPAC of­fers few de­tails oth­er than the typ­i­cal boil­er­plate lan­guage about look­ing for a com­pa­ny with a “strong com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion.” Aj­jara­pu out­lined a plan to fo­cus on com­pa­nies with a mar­ket cap be­tween $250 mil­lion and $1 bil­lion, but qual­i­fied that state­ment — as is usu­al — say­ing the SPAC could go in any di­rec­tion.

SPAC fil­ings have slowed down since the be­gin­ning of the year, but merg­ers are be­gin­ning to pick up. Just yes­ter­day, the weight man­age­ment com­pa­ny Gele­sis an­nounced the lat­est re­verse merg­er in its $476 mil­lion heel turn to the New York Stock Ex­change.

HCW Bi­o­log­ics hits Nas­daq at the low end

An­oth­er biotech IPO has priced, this time com­ing from Mi­ra­mar, FL-based HCW Bi­o­log­ics.

Hop­ping on­to Nas­daq at the low end of its range, HCW hit the ex­change at $8 per share and com­plet­ing a $56 mil­lion raise. The biotech is aim­ing to re­search the con­nec­tion be­tween chron­ic in­flam­ma­tion and ag­ing, coin­ing the buzzy phase “in­flam­mag­ing” to de­scribe its tar­gets.

In its ini­tial S-1 a few weeks ago, HCW list­ed plans for four clin­i­cal tri­als to be up and run­ning by the end of the year for its can­di­date in re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry acute myeloid leukemia. But the new S-1 up­dat­ed for the pric­ing has no men­tion of this pro­gram, and it is no longer list­ed on the com­pa­ny’s web­site ei­ther. Two of those four tri­als had al­ready been on­go­ing, and it’s un­clear whether they are still run­ning.

In­stead, the IPO will now large­ly cen­ter around a pipeline pro­gram for pan­cre­at­ic can­cer and sol­id tu­mors, with goals to sub­mit an IND for a Phase Ib/II tri­al for the for­mer as an ad­junct to chemo. About $6.4 mil­lion will be fun­neled to this pro­gram, the S-1 said.

The biggest por­tion of the IPO, about $19 mil­lion, will go to “salaries and ben­e­fits for all em­ploy­ees.”

CEO Hing Wong will take home most of the IPO prize, as he will own 42.6% of shares once the IPO is com­plet­ed, ac­cord­ing to the S-1. Med­mi­ra Cap­i­tal’s bet al­so pays off, as the firm owns the sec­ond-biggest share at 10.5%.

Adap­tive De­sign Meth­ods Of­fer Rapid, Seam­less Tran­si­tion Be­tween Study Phas­es in Rare Can­cer Tri­als

Rare cancers account for 22 percent of cancer diagnoses worldwide, yet there is no universally accepted definition for a “rare” cancer. Moreover, with the evolution of genomics and associated changes in categorizing tumors, some common cancers are now characterized into groups of rare cancers, each with a unique implication for patient management and therapy.

Adaptive designs, which allow for prospectively planned modifications to study design based on accumulating data from subjects in the trial, can be used to optimize rare oncology trials (see Figure 1). Adaptive design studies may include multiple cohorts and multiple tumor types. In addition, numerous adaptation methods may be used in a single trial and may facilitate a more rapid, seamless transition between study phases.

Marianne De Backer (L) and Jeff Hatfield

Bay­er nabs star biotech Vi­vid­ion with a $2B buy­out and an ‘arms-length’ pact, pulling a part­ner out of the IPO con­ga line

Vividion is canceling that IPO it filed. Instead of following the industry-wide migration to Nasdaq, the biotech that has captured considerable attention for its still-preclinical work finding cryptic pockets to bind to on proteins is going to work for Bayer now.

The pharma giant is putting out word today that it has bought out Vividion for $1.5 billion in cash and another half-billion dollars in milestones.

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Tadataka Yamada (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sci­ence pi­o­neer, phar­ma re­search chief, glob­al health ad­vo­cate and biotech en­tre­pre­neur Tadata­ka ‘Tachi’ Ya­ma­da has died

Tadataka Yamada, a towering physician-scientist who made his name in academia before transforming drug development at GlaxoSmithKline and developing vaccines for malaria and meningitis at the Gates Foundation, died unexpectedly of natural causes at his home in Seattle Wednesday morning.

He was 76. Frazier Healthcare Partners’ David Socks confirmed his death.

Known widely by the mononym “Tachi,” Yamada had a globetrotting career and arrived in industry relatively late in life. A 2004 Independent article noted GSK had asked Yamada to stay on beyond his approaching 60th birthday, the company’s usual retirement age. Yamada would continue working for the next 17 years, steering the Gates Foundation’s global health division for 6 years, funding Jim Wilson’s gene therapy work when few would touch it, launching Takeda Vaccines and co-founding a series of high-profile biotechs.

UK re-in­ves­ti­gates Pfiz­er's eye-pop­ping price goug­ing on an epilep­sy drug

When a drugmaker raises the price of a drug in the US by more than 2,000% overnight, and without any particular reason for that increase, nothing typically happens to the company. No fines, no court orders, just business as usual.

Martin Shkreli’s decades-old anti-parasitic drug Daraprim was the perfect example — massive price spike on an old drug, lots of media attention, public outcry, Congressional committees dragging his former company through multiple hearings, and at the end of it? Nothing happened to the price or the company (until generic competition came).

Josh Hoffman, outgoing Zymergen CEO (Zymergen)

UP­DAT­ED: Syn­bio uni­corn Zymer­gen jet­ti­sons found­ing CEO, cuts guid­ance as cus­tomers re­port lead prod­uct does­n't work

Zymergen, just months off a $500 million IPO that put the synthetic bio firm in rarified air, has now ejected its founding CEO and downgraded its revenue forecasts after customers reported its lead film product doesn’t work as advertised, the company said Tuesday afternoon.

CEO Josh Hoffman will leave his role and sacrifice his board seat immediately in favor of Jay Flatley, the former CEO of Illumina who will take the lead role on an interim basis as the company conducts a search for its next leader.

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Zymergen co-founders Zach Serber, Josh Hoffman, and Jed Dean (Zymergen via website)

Zymer­gen's sud­den im­plo­sion shocked biotech. A lin­ger­ing loan could make things even worse

As former synbio unicorn Zymergen picks up the pieces from its spectacular implosion Tuesday, an outstanding loan from Perceptive Advisors — the only blue-chip biotech crossover investor to touch Zymergen’s fundraising efforts — could make the situation worse, according to public documents.

In December 2019, more than a year before Zymergen filed for what would eventually become a $500 million IPO, the “biofacturing” firm signed a $100 million credit facility with Perceptive to help supplement the nearly $700 million the company had raised across four VC rounds.

Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva CEO

A small vac­cine de­vel­op­er fa­vored by the UK gov­ern­ment in Covid-19 touts a PhI­II first in chikun­gun­ya

Before Valneva garnered the favor of the UK government as a potential supplier of Covid-19 vaccines, the French biotech prided itself on being the first company to bring a chikungunya vaccine into Phase III.

It now has positive pivotal results to back up the breakthrough therapy designation the FDA granted just weeks ago.

There are currently no approved jabs to prevent chikungunya virus infection despite decades of R&D efforts, a fact that underscores just how arduous traditional vaccine development can be, particularly for neglected tropical disease. In a absence of a major commercial market, the US government and NGOs such as CEPI have deployed various grants and incentives to spur on a small crew of academics and industry players, with Merck, via its acquisition of Themis, claiming a spot in that race.

Bio­gen, Ei­sai are push­ing for an­oth­er ac­cel­er­at­ed Alzheimer's OK — this time for BAN2401

Now that the door at the FDA has been opened wide for Alzheimer’s drugs that can demonstrate a reduction in amyloid, Biogen and its partners at Eisai are pushing for a quick OK on the next drug to follow in the controversial path of aducanumab.

In a presentation to analysts, Eisai neurology chief Ivan Cheung outlined some bullish expectations for their newly-approved treatment and set the stage for what he believes will be a fast follow for BAN2401 (lecanemab) — after a dry spell in new drug development that’s lasted close to 20 years.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Eric Piermont/AFP via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi buys mR­NA play­er Trans­late Bio for $3.2B. And the price fits a pop­u­lar range for biotech M&A

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson is dead serious about his intention to vault directly into contention for the future of mRNA vaccines.

A year after paying Translate Bio $TBIO a whopping $425 million in an upfront and equity payment to help guide the pharma giant to the promised land of mRNA vaccines, Sanofi closed the deal with a buyout early Tuesday, spending $38 a share in a $3.2 billion buyout.

Translate’s stock $TBIO soared after the market closed Monday when Reuters reported the first word of the acquisition just hours ahead of the formal announcement. The wire service, though, didn’t have a price to report in its scoop, and investors chased the stock up 78% in the wild ride that followed. Once the price was announced, gains shriveled to 29% ahead of the bell.

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