Ralph Hamers, UBS CEO (Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP Images)

UBS wants to make an 'im­pact' with a new fund, shelling out $650M to join MPM

Swiss bank­ing com­pa­ny UBS jumped in­to the deep end of biotech fundrais­ing Wednes­day, pony­ing up more than half a bil­lion dol­lars to­ward new “im­pact” in­vest­ments.

UBS con­tributed $650 mil­lion to MPM Cap­i­tal’s sec­ond im­pact fund fo­cused around on­col­o­gy, the bank said Wednes­day morn­ing, mak­ing up the vast ma­jor­i­ty of MPM’s $850 mil­lion new fund. The bank claims that the to­tal sum marks the biggest im­pact in­vest­ment fund the biotech sec­tor has ever seen.

CEO Ralph Hamers said in a state­ment the fund shows how UBS is “work­ing with an ex­pert part­ner to con­nect our clients with in­vestable so­lu­tions that have the po­ten­tial to im­prove the health and lives of many.”

Im­pact in­vest­ing is a large­ly re­cent phe­nom­e­non, with the term hav­ing been coined in 2007, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters re­port. In­vestors gen­er­al­ly aim to tie phil­an­thropic goals in­to the main­stream fi­nan­cial world, spend­ing cap­i­tal and in­vest­ing in com­pa­nies seek­ing to make an en­vi­ron­men­tal or so­cial im­pact.

It’s not en­tire­ly clear how in­vest­ments in on­co­log­ic biotechs and drugs will fall un­der the same im­pact in­vest­ing um­brel­la, giv­en how cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ty typ­i­cal­ly plays in­to in­vestor de­ci­sions. UBS’ ar­gu­ment seem­ing­ly cen­ters around im­pact­ing the lives of pa­tients, though the vast amount of life sci­ences funds and bio­phar­mas al­so claim to do so.

For ex­am­ple, sim­i­lar funds run by large fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and hedge funds like to in­vest in non­prof­its, where­as the MPM-run fund will set its sights on pri­vate­ly-held and pub­licly trad­ed com­pa­nies. MPM plans to al­lo­cate 80% of the fund to pri­vate biotechs while the re­main­der will be re­served for pub­lic ones.

The in­vestors al­so ap­pear to be tech­nol­o­gy and plat­form ag­nos­tic, not­ing in a press re­lease that they plan on spend­ing their cash on a va­ri­ety of cell, gene and RNA-based ther­a­pies.

Re­gard­less of the ter­mi­nol­o­gy, UBS will have a lot of mon­ey to throw around, and much more than its pre­vi­ous fund that closed in 2016. Af­ter rais­ing $470 mil­lion five years ago, UBS and MPM are be­gin­ning to see big re­turns, and the pair high­light­ed El­e­vate­Bio as a top port­fo­lio com­pa­ny. The biotech raised $525 mil­lion in a March Se­ries C, putting its to­tal war chest at $845 mil­lion.

And to tie the phil­an­thropy to­geth­er, UBS and MPM are promis­ing to do­nate a share of rev­enues and “suc­cess fees” to the UBS Op­ti­mus Foun­da­tion and the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion for Can­cer Re­search, with­out af­fect­ing in­vestor re­turns. Thus far, the pair has do­nat­ed $8 mil­lion to­ward these caus­es from the first fund.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Martin Landray, Protas CEO (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Those big bil­lion-dol­lar PhI­II stud­ies? Mar­tin Lan­dray says they can be done for a tiny frac­tion of the cost

Martin Landray knows what controversy in clinical drug development feels like, from first-hand experience.

Landray was the chief architect of RECOVERY, a study that pitted a variety of drugs against Covid-19. And he offered some landmark data that would help push dexamethasone out into broader use as a cheap treatment, while helping ice hydroxy’s reputation as a clear misfire.

“Lots of people told us we shouldn’t use it,” Landray says about dexamethasone and Covid-19. “It was dangerous. We shouldn’t even do a trial. They also cared about hydroxychloroquine and lots of people said we shouldn’t do a trial because it must be used. I’ve got the letters from both sets of people.”

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FDA ap­proves one of the prici­est new treat­ments of all time — blue­bird's gene ther­a­py for be­ta tha­lassemia

The FDA on Wednesday approved the first gene therapy for a chronic condition — bluebird bio’s new Zynteglo (beti-cel) as a potentially curative treatment for those with transfusion-dependent thalassemia.

The thumbs-up from the FDA follows a unanimous adcomm vote in June, with outside experts pointing to extraordinary efficacy, with 89% of subjects with TDT who received beti-cel having achieved transfusion independence.

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Geoffrey Porges, new Schrödinger CFO

Long­time an­a­lyst Ge­of­frey Porges de­parts SVB to lead fi­nances at a drug dis­cov­ery shop

Geoffrey Porges has ended his two-decade run as a biotech analyst, as the former SVB Securities vice chair began as CFO of Schrödinger on Thursday.

The long-running analyst, who previously headed up vaccines marketing at Merck before the turn of the millennium, will lead the financial operations of the 700-employee company as Schrödinger broadens its focus from a drug discovery partner to also building out an in-house pipeline, with clinical trial No. 1 set to begin next quarter.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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James Sabry, Roche global head of pharma partnering

Roche, Genen­tech plunk down $60M up­front to part­ner with Chi­nese phar­ma on PRO­TAC-based prostate can­cer drug

Roche and Genentech are always on the hunt for deals, and on Thursday they found their newest partner.

The pair will team up with the Chinese pharma company Jemincare to push forward a new program for prostate cancer, the companies announced. Roche is ponying up $60 million upfront to get its hands on the candidate and promising up to $590 million in biobucks, plus royalties, down the line.

In return, Genentech will get a worldwide license to develop the program, known as JMKX002992, and bring it to market.

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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