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%.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Demis Hassabis, DeepMind CEO (Qianlong/Imaginechina via AP Images)

Google's Deep­Mind opens its pro­tein data­base to sci­ence — po­ten­tial­ly crack­ing drug R&D wide open

Nearly a year ago, Google’s AI outfit DeepMind announced they had cracked one of the oldest problems in biology: predicting a protein’s structure from its sequence alone. Now they’ve turned that software on nearly every human protein and hundreds of thousands of additional proteins from organisms important to medical research, such as fruit flies, mice and malaria parasite.

The new database of roughly 350,000 protein sequences and structures represents a potentially monumental achievement for the life sciences, one that could hasten new biological insights and the development of new drugs. DeepMind said it will be free and accessible to all researchers and companies.

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In­side Bio­gen's scram­ble to sell Aduhelm: Pro­ject 'Javelin' and pres­sure to ID as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble

In anticipation of Aduhelm’s approval for Alzheimer’s in June, Biogen employees were directed to identify and guarantee treatment centers would administer the drug through a program called “Javelin,” a senior Biogen employee told Endpoints News.

The program identified about 800 centers for use, he said, and Biogen now pays for the use of bioassays to identify beta amyloid in potential patients having undergone a lumbar puncture procedure, the employee said — and one center preparing to administer the drug confirmed its participation in the bioassay program.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis dis­cards one of its ‘wild card’ drugs af­ter it flops in key study. But it takes one more for the hand

Always remember just how risky it is to gamble big on small studies.

A little more than 4 years ago, Novartis reportedly put up a package worth up to $1 billion for the dry eye drug ECF843 after a small biotech called Lubris put it through its paces in a tiny study of 40 moderate to severe patients, tracking some statistically significant markers of efficacy.

By last fall, the program had risen up to become one of CEO Vas Narasimhan’s top “wild card” programs in line for a potential breakthrough year in 2021. These drugs were all considered high-risk, high-reward efforts. And in this case, risk won.

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UP­DAT­ED: Three biotechs price hefty IPOs just be­fore the week­end, while a fourth and a SPAC seek spots on Wall Street

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

A handful of biotechs are hitting Wall Street just before the start of the weekend, with three companies — Caribou Biosciences, Sophia Genetics and Absci — all pricing big raises Wednesday and Thursday. Gamma delta T cell-focused IN8bio relaunched its IPO campaign months after postponing it last November, seeking a slightly lower raise. And another SPAC has filed for a public debut.

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Victor Perlroth, Kodiak Sciences CEO

Ko­di­ak turns down $125M pay­ment from Bak­er Bros. deal, slash­es roy­al­ty cap by 55%

Following a massive public raise last November, Kodiak Sciences has re-worked a royalty sale agreement with an old partner — and declined new funds in the process.

Kodiak is turning down a planned $125 million payment from Baker Bros. Advisors, according to an SEC filing, cutting short an agreement that saw the biotech hand over a 4.5% stream of royalty sales on its experimental anti-VEGF therapy KSI-301 for retinal vascular diseases. In conjunction with the move, Kodiak is shrinking the royalty cap from just over $1 billion to $450 million.

EMA re­jects FDA-ap­proved Parkin­son's drug, signs off on Mod­er­na vac­cine use in ado­les­cents ahead of FDA

The European Medicines Agency on Friday rejected Kyowa Kirin’s Parkinson’s disease drug Nouryant (istradefylline), which the US FDA approved in 2019 under the brand name Nourianz.

EMA said it considered that the results of the clinical studies used to support the application “were inconsistent and did not satisfactorily show that Nouryant was effective at reducing the ‘off’ time. Only four out of the eight studies showed a reduction in ‘off’ time, and the effect did not increase with an increased dose of Nouryant.”

6 top drug­mak­ers of­fer per­spec­tives on FDA's new co­vari­ates in RCTs guid­ance

Back in May, the FDA revised and expanded a 2019 draft guidance that spells out how to adjust for covariates in the statistical analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Building on the ICH’s E9 guideline on the statistical principles for clinical trials, the 3-page draft was transformed into an 8-page draft, with more detailed recommendations on linear and nonlinear models to analyze the efficacy endpoints in RCTs.

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Mol­e­c­u­lar Di­ag­nos­tics Can Trans­form Can­cer Care. Let’s Make It Hap­pen.

Like so many people around the world, my life has been profoundly shaped by cancer. Those personal experiences, along with a deep love of clinical laboratory science and a passion to apply the power of genomics in medicine, motivated me to launch a company that would improve cancer care through better diagnostics. Thirteen years later, I am proud that we are delivering more accurate information at multiple points along the patient journey, with a focus on eight of the 10 cancers that are most commonly diagnosed in the United States.