Unicorn hunter Vivek Ramaswamy has cooked up a new deal with AstraZeneca. But what is it?
Something’s cooking at Vivek Ramaswamy’s Roivant Sciences. We just can’t say exactly what it is.
This morning Ramaswamy put out word that he’s bagged an experimental drug from AstraZeneca. He’s just not saying publicly what it is, where it’s positioned in the clinic or, for now, how it fits into the pipelines at the Roivant companies.
Here’s what we do know.
AstraZeneca has handed over global rights to an unspecified drug “outside of AstraZeneca’s main therapy areas” for an unspecified deal package. In a statement, Ramaswamy said this was the first such deal he’s done with AstraZeneca and he hopes for many more to follow.
In the absence of clarity, I’ll fill in with some speculative analysis.
AstraZeneca has been selling off a whole line of non-core drug assets in the last couple of years. The primary focus has been to garner some additional revenue as the company looks to pull off a major turnaround, which is still far from finished. And the pharma giant has been willing to get creative about staying focused on cancer and a few key areas. A few years ago, CEO Pascal Soriot decided to spin out an unwanted R&D group focused on antibiotics and funded the A round when he couldn’t find a buyer.
Ramaswamy, meanwhile, has made a business out of picking up shelved assets in biopharma pipelines around the world, spinning them out into new companies. His first deal was for an Alzheimer’s drug from GlaxoSmithKline, which he bagged for only $5 million and used to launch the first of his vants, Axovant $AXON.
It turns out, though, that that drug was worth even less, failing a Phase III and putting a cloud over Roivant’s strategy even though there are now 6 companies operating under the umbrella group. The group also includes the new Datavant, which was set up to find new drugs in the pipeline to lasso.
Ramaswamy has raised close to $2 billion — including a recent $1.1 billion from SoftBank — so he has plenty of cash to gamble with. And new deals now, along with new companies — and the prominent biopharma execs he likes to recruit like David Hung and Lynn Seely — will help refocus attention after the big setback in Alzheimer’s.
Ramaswamy is not shy about promoting his biotechs and the deals he does, but he sticks to his own schedule–or perhaps in this case with AstraZeneca’s wishes.
Image: Vivek Ramaswamy Getty