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.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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FDA un­veils new pi­lots on short­ened sup­ple­ment re­views, rare dis­eases thanks to PDU­FA VII

Thanks to PDUFA VII, signed into law last Friday by President Joe Biden, the FDA this week unveiled two new industry-friendly pilot programs to advance new rare disease endpoints via additional meetings, and to shorten FDA review times for supplemental apps aimed at unmet medical needs.

The agency this week released eagerly-awaited details behind the shortened pilot, known as the Split Real Time Application Review or STAR pilot program, which will speed up certain FDA reviews of efficacy supplements across all therapeutic areas (thanks to earlier submissions of data), but only for those that propose addressing an unmet medical need.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Look­ing to push CAR-T in sol­id tu­mors, Bay Area biotech goes pub­lic in SPAC flip — with slight name change

SPACs might be slowly creeping back.

Monday evening, Estrella Biopharma said it was going public via a SPAC deal with TradeUP Acquisition Corp. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2023, and if all goes as planned, the public version of Estrella — dubbed Estrella Immunopharma — will be worth around $398.5 million.

The Bay Area biotech will also get around $45.4 million in cash, and TradeUp stockholders will get around 15% stock in the public biotech.

Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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