Craig Parker, Surrozen CEO

The world of Wnt heads to Nas­daq as Sur­rozen an­nounces a $212M SPAC deal

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An­oth­er day, an­oth­er SPAC merg­er in the world of biotech.

Less than 24 hours af­ter Tan­go Ther­a­peu­tics an­nounced its own leap to Nas­daq through the blank check route, Sur­rozen has de­cid­ed to take a sim­i­lar step. The Wnt path­way-fo­cused biotech is re­verse-merg­ing with Con­so­nance Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment’s SPAC in a $212 mil­lion deal, which in­cludes $92 mil­lion from the shell com­pa­ny and $120 mil­lion in PIPE fi­nanc­ing.

The trans­ac­tion is ex­pect­ed to close in the third quar­ter, with Sur­rozen tak­ing on the tick­er $SRZN when it of­fi­cial­ly hits the mar­ket.

Sur­rozen is work­ing on a pipeline of ex­per­i­men­tal drugs that mod­u­late the Wnt path­way, which plays a role in the main­te­nance and self-re­new­al of stem cells in a va­ri­ety of tis­sues. Prod­ucts that af­fect Wnt sig­nal­ing, whose name com­bines Wing­less and Int-1, can be dif­fi­cult to man­u­fac­ture be­cause the process is high­ly un­sta­ble.

The goal, then, is to de­vel­op drugs that are flex­i­ble enough to ad­dress in­suf­fi­cient en­doge­nous Wnt or in­suf­fi­cient re­cep­tors that have the po­ten­tial to re­pair dam­aged tis­sue. So far, that’s tak­en the form of two lead pro­grams, one for in­flam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease and an­oth­er to treat se­vere al­co­holic he­pati­tis.

Both pro­grams are ex­pect­ed to en­ter the clin­ic thanks to Thurs­day’s raise, Sur­rozen said, with funds tak­ing them through Phase Ib tri­als.

First, there’s SZN-1326, a bi-spe­cif­ic an­ti­body tar­get­ing Fzd5/8 and Lrp6 for IBD. Pre­clin­i­cal da­ta have shown the mol­e­cule can bind to Friz­zled re­cep­tors — where Wnt pro­teins sig­nal through — di­rect­ly and should stim­u­late re­gen­er­a­tion of in­testi­nal ep­ithe­lial cells.

Then there’s SZN-043, the se­vere al­co­holic he­pati­tis can­di­date, which is a he­pa­to­cyte-tar­get­ed R-spondin mimet­ic. Rather than bind­ing to the Friz­zled re­cep­tors as the IBD pro­gram does, this can­di­date sta­bi­lizes them to stim­u­late liv­er cell pro­lif­er­a­tion and re­duce fi­bro­sis.

Sur­rozen is hop­ing to uti­lize the two Wnt mod­u­lat­ing plat­forms that helped cre­ate these com­pounds to ex­pand in­to oth­er dis­eases, such as those in the eye, lung, kid­ney, cochlea, skin, pan­creas and cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem.

SPACs have cre­at­ed a whirl­wind on Wall Street, with the num­ber of blank check com­pa­nies pric­ing their IPOs in 2021 hav­ing al­ready sur­passed the to­tal from the last two years com­bined, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from SPACIn­sid­er. The flur­ry has al­so drawn the eyes of in­ves­ti­ga­tors, with the SEC say­ing last month they have start­ed vol­un­tar­i­ly re­quest­ing in­for­ma­tion from banks in­to how they’re polic­ing the deals in­ter­nal­ly.

All the ac­tiv­i­ty has al­so prompt­ed con­cerns that there will soon be too many SPACs and not enough com­pa­nies with which to merge. Sur­rozen marks the 6th life sci­ences com­pa­ny to an­nounce its in­tent to merge in 2021, but there have been more than 30 that have priced this year, per an End­points News tal­ly.

For biotech, though, the SPAC wave has meant a whole new stack of cash for the com­pa­nies that do de­cide to es­chew the tra­di­tion­al IPO route. In­clud­ing Tan­go’s an­nounce­ment for sim­i­lar plans with Box­er Cap­i­tal’s blank-check com­pa­ny just yes­ter­day, the to­tal SPAC raise for these six com­pa­nies now equals about $2.9 bil­lion.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

$DNA is once again on NYSE; FDA clears Soliris chal­lenger for the mar­ket; Flag­ship’s think­ing big again with eR­NA; 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.

I still remember the uncertainty in the air last year when nobody was sure whether ASCO would cancel their in-person meeting. But it’s now back again for the second virtual conference, and Endpoints News is here for it. Check out our 2-day event reviewing the landscape of cancer R&D and send news our way.

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Michael Dell (Richard Drew, AP Images)

'Dude, you're get­ting a Del­l' — as a new deep-pock­et biotech in­vestor

What happens when you marry longtime insiders in the global biotech VC game with the family fund of tech billionaire Michael Dell, a synthetic biology legend out of MIT and Harvard and the former director of the NCI?

Today, the answer is a newly financed, $200 million biotech SPAC now cruising the industry for a top player interested in finding a short cut to Nasdaq.

Orion Biotech Opportunities priced their blank check company today, raising $200 million with Dell’s multibillion-dollar MSD group’s commitment on investing another $20 million in a forward-purchase agreement.

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Gene ther­a­py from Bio­gen's $800M buy­out flops in mid-stage study, deal­ing blow to new am­bi­tions

The #2 candidate from Biogen’s $800 million ocular gene therapy buyout has failed in a mid-stage trial, dealing an early blow to the big biotech’s plans to revitalize its pipeline with new technologies.

Biogen announced that the candidate, an experimental treatment for a rare and progressive form of blindness called X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP), failed to sufficiently improve vision in patients’ treated eye — patients only received an injection in one eye — after a year, on a standard scale, compared to their untreated eye. The company said they saw “positive trends” on several secondary endpoints, including visual acuity, but declined to say whether the trial actually hit any of those endpoints.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis whiffs on En­tresto study af­ter heart at­tacks — but that does­n't mean it's go­ing down qui­et­ly

If Novartis learned one thing from its interaction with the FDA over its latest heart failure approval for Entresto, it was that missing a primary endpoint may not be the nail in the coffin. Now, Entresto has missed again on a late-stage study in high-risk heart patients, and it’s already sowing the seeds for a path forward regardless.

Novartis’ Entresto couldn’t best standard-of-care ramipril in staving off a composite of deaths and heart failure events in patients with left ventricular systolic dysfunction and/or pulmonary congestion who have had a prior heart attack, according to topline data from the Phase III PARADISE-MI study revealed Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.

Jason Kelly (Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Gink­go nabs $DNA, biotech's most sought af­ter tick­er, for free in sweet­en­er from NYSE

When Ginkgo went comparison shopping for a financial market to list their now $15 billion company, the New York Stock Exchange had a back-pocket sweetener the Nasdaq couldn’t offer: The most sought-after ticker in biotech, $DNA.

DNA — the most famous three letters in biology and the ticker for the world’s first biotech, Genentech, from 1999 until it was bought out by Roche for $48 billion in 2009 — will now be the ticker for Ginkgo, a 12-year-old synthetic biology startup with grand ambitions to change not only how drugs, but also everyday products like meat and perfumes, are made.

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Lark­spur Health Ac­qui­si­tion files to go pub­lic as this year's SPAC flood surges over $14B

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Another day, another SPAC vying for a spot on Nasdaq.

On Wednesday, OncoSec Medical CEO Daniel O’Connor filed the S-1 paperwork for a new blank-check company he’s leading called Larkspur Health Acquisition. The former Advaxis chief penciled in a $75 million raise, with plans to offer 7.5 million shares at $10 apiece.

BAR­DA slows its $9B en­gine for new Covid-19 ther­a­peu­tics

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is cooling its jets in looking for new, potential Covid-19 treatments, at least in the near term.

An HHS spokesperson told Endpoints News via email, “to date, BARDA has obligated more than $9 billion for the development and/or purchase of 13 therapeutics, beginning in February 2020 with support to develop Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapeutic. Therapeutics are an important element of the COVID-19 response, and we are focused on the programs currently underway and/or in negotiation using the funds available to us.”

Bris­tol My­ers backs up its case for heart drug mava­camten as FDA weighs app in car­diomy­opa­thy

When Bristol Myers Squibb signed off on its $13 billion acquisition of MyoKardia back in October, it was making a big bet that lead drug mavacamten could prove a game changer in cardiac myopathy. Now, with the drug up for FDA review, Bristol Myers is backing up its case with new quality of life data.

Patients dosed with myosin inhibitor mavacamten posted a clinically significant increase in scores on the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire, a catch-all summary of symptoms and quality of life markers, over placebo at 30 weeks, according to data from the Phase III EXPLORER-HCM study presented Saturday at the virtual American College of Cardiology meeting.