Ron Renaud, Cerevel CEO

Three big win­ners from Ab­b­Vie's $8.7B Cerev­el deal: A drug­mak­er, a CEO and a SPAC

Ab­b­Vie’s $8.7 bil­lion deal for Cerev­el comes with some in­ter­est­ing sub­plots. The ac­qui­si­tion of course sets up Ab­b­Vie for life af­ter Hu­mi­ra, but it al­so ex­tends the deal­mak­ing streak of Cerev­el’s CEO, who joined the 321-em­ploy­ee biotech just months ago; marks an­oth­er suc­cess for a Pfiz­er spin­out; and is the rare SPAC-made-good sto­ry.

Here are the sur­prise win­ners out of Wednes­day’s an­nounce­ment:

  • Pfiz­er’s off­shoots: Bain Cap­i­tal set aside $350 mil­lion to back Cerev­el’s launch in the fall of 2018 af­ter Pfiz­er had axed most of its work in neu­ro­science (not un­com­mon for phar­ma at the time). Pfiz­er still owns about 15% of Cerev­el, Mizuho an­a­lysts not­ed. It caps a re­mark­able run of suc­cess for as­sets that Pfiz­er has shipped off — in­clud­ing Oc­to­ber’s $7.1 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion by Roche of Tela­vant’s TL1A as­set, which Pfiz­er shipped to Roivant but kept a stake; and the first FDA ap­proval of a desmoid tu­mor treat­ment for Spring­Works, which was start­ed with drug can­di­dates li­censed from Pfiz­er.
  • A blank check com­pa­ny that worked: The ex­it could be the best ever for a biotech that went pub­lic via a spe­cial pur­pose ac­qui­si­tion com­pa­ny com­bi­na­tion, or SPAC, At­las Ven­ture part­ner Bruce Booth point­ed out. Cerev­el inked a $445 mil­lion SPAC com­bi­na­tion in Ju­ly 2020, and the mar­ket for the blank-check deals has fiz­zled af­ter peak­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic bo­nan­za. Ini­tial in­vestor Bain Cap­i­tal and the SPAC’s leader, Per­cep­tive, still own about 35% and 6% of Cerev­el, Mizuho an­a­lysts not­ed.
  • Ron Re­naud, deal king? Cerev­el CEO Ron Re­naud took less than six months from join­ing Cerev­el to flip it in one of the big­ger trans­ac­tions of the year. The deal fol­lows Re­naud’s sale of mR­NA start­up Trans­late Bio to Sanofi for $3.2 bil­lion in 2021 and of Idenix to Mer­ck for $3.85 bil­lion in 2014 (though prospects for its he­pati­tis C drug flamed out). It’s ob­vi­ous­ly worth watch­ing where he goes next.
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