Un­fazed by Brex­it blues, UK biotech trade group cel­e­brates bois­ter­ous year of ven­ture dol­lars with record £1.1B to­tal

A record year of ven­ture in­vest­ing has float­ed UK’s biotech boat, with the mon­ey flow in 2018 gush­ing over the £1 bil­lion mark for the first time.

A to­tal of £1.1 bil­lion was raised thanks to a boom in late-stage fi­nanc­ings, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­port from the UK BioIn­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion and Phar­ma In­tel­li­gence. While seed fund­ing stayed flat at £27 mil­lion and A rounds nabbed a col­lec­tive £213 mil­lion, it was Se­ries B and post-B fi­nanc­ings that de­liv­ered the most im­pres­sive num­bers at £393 mil­lion and £480 mil­lion, re­spec­tive­ly.

To put this in­to per­spec­tive, the BIA es­ti­mates that biotechs around the world raised a to­tal of £16.5 bil­lion from pri­vate and ven­ture sources. The US ab­sorbed the li­on’s share at £11.1 bil­lion, main­ly due to out­sized roles played by three biotech hubs, while Eu­rope pock­et­ed £2.6 bil­lion. The in­flux of cash in­to the UK means it’s now the fifth most at­trac­tive re­gion for biotech in­vest­ment, wrote Mike Ward of Phar­ma In­tel­li­gence, fol­low­ing San Fran­cis­co (£3.6 bil­lion), Mass­a­chu­setts (£3.4 bil­lion), Chi­na (£2.0 bil­lion) and San Diego (£1.6 bil­lion).

Julie Sim­monds

“The sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in mid and late-stage fi­nanc­ings shows a con­tin­ued ma­tur­ing of the sec­tor and strong in­ter­est from in­vestors in UK sci­ence,” Julie Sim­monds, an eq­ui­ty re­search an­a­lyst with Pan­mure Gor­don, wrote in the re­port. “It al­so re­flects the fact that UK com­pa­nies are choos­ing to re­main pri­vate for longer.”

What’s lur­ing in­vestors to a coun­try that, while es­tab­lished in sci­ence with pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions and com­pa­nies in the Gold­en Tri­an­gle, is caught up in a chaot­ic (and ac­cord­ing to End­points News’ read­ers, harm­ful) de­par­ture from the Eu­ro­pean Union?

Steve Bates

It has to do with the UK’s “ex­per­tise in ge­nomics, cell and gene ther­a­pies, an­timi­cro­bial re­search and en­gi­neer­ing bi­ol­o­gy,” ac­cord­ing to BIA CEO Steve Bates. A pair of gene ther­a­py com­pa­nies — Or­chard Ther­a­peu­tics and Free­line Ther­a­peu­tics — claimed three of the top five ven­ture deals high­light­ed in the re­port, with the rest go­ing to Benev­o­len­tAI and genome se­quenc­ing com­pa­ny Ox­ford Nanopore.

Or­chard is al­so the poster child for pub­lic fi­nanc­ing here, hav­ing fol­lowed up its two pri­vate rounds with a quick £177.75 mil­lion IPO. Its suc­cess on the Nas­daq along­side Au­to­lus sug­gests “greater in­vestor ap­petite” in the US com­pared to Eu­rope, so­lid­i­fy­ing Nas­daq’s sta­tus as the ex­change of choice for UK biotechs to go pub­lic or raise fol­low-on fi­nanc­ing.

All told, £658 mil­lion was raised in fol­low-on fi­nanc­ing, with £381 mil­lion com­ing from the Nas­daq — more than AIM and LSE com­bined.

Mean­while M&A was rel­a­tive­ly mut­ed con­sid­er­ing that the cheap British pound low­ered the val­ue of UK as­sets. BIA count­ed 15 deals, in­clud­ing med­ical de­vice and vet­eri­nary med­i­cine com­pa­nies.

As the EMA moves out of its long­time Lon­don abode and the British drug reg­u­la­tor rush­es to put its own re­view sys­tem in place, the re­port spells an op­ti­mistic fu­ture for UK biotech.

“The cap­i­tal will be there,” com­ment­ed Tim Hames, di­rec­tor gen­er­al of the British Pri­vate Eq­ui­ty & Ven­ture Cap­i­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. “Do we have the pa­tience is the key ques­tion.”

Graph­ics: “Con­fi­dent cap­i­tal: back­ing UK biotech,” Jan­u­ary 2019 re­port. BIA, In­for­ma Phar­ma In­tel­li­gence

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Michael Gladstone, partner at Atlas Venture

At­las rais­es new $400M fund amid spree of VC rais­es. Here’s what they’ll spend it on

You can add another few hundred million to the now Montana-sized reservoir of cash biotech VCs have raised since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

Atlas Venture, the prominent Kendall Square incubator, has raised $400 million for its twelfth biotech fund, their first in 3 years. After a string of mammoth new raises from other major VCs in April and May, the total pot now stands between $5 billion and $6 billion, depending on how you slice it.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.