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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