Andrey Zarur, GreenLight Biosciences CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Vir­tu­al­ly un­known mR­NA up­start rides SPAC to Nas­daq with a $1.5B val­u­a­tion as RA-backed neu­ro play­er prices IPO

Ed­i­tor’s note: In­ter­est­ed in fol­low­ing bio­phar­ma’s fast-paced IPO mar­ket? You can book­mark our IPO Track­er here.

Just a few days af­ter EQRx an­nounced its in­tent to merge with Eli Cas­din’s third blank check com­pa­ny, an­oth­er SPAC deal is wrapped up and ready for Nas­daq.

RNA tech firm Green­Light Bio­sciences will re­verse merge its way to the pub­lic mar­ket, the com­pa­ny an­nounced Tues­day morn­ing, net­ting the biotech a rough­ly $1.5 bil­lion val­u­a­tion. Green­Light will merge with the SPAC En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact Ac­qui­si­tion Corp., which is backed by Canac­cord Ge­nu­ity Group and Hud­son Bay Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, and will get $207 mil­lion from the SPAC as well as $105 mil­lion in PIPE fi­nanc­ing.

Green­Light is work­ing on sev­er­al ex­per­i­men­tal vac­cines us­ing mR­NA tech­nol­o­gy, in­clud­ing for sea­son­al flu, Covid-19 and sick­le cell dis­ease. Ex­ecs have set out a “blue­print to vac­ci­nate the world,” ar­gu­ing that mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties are not up to snuff. Green­Light has pro­posed build­ing sev­en new mR­NA man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties to try to com­bat this is­sue.

But the Med­ford, MA-based com­pa­ny got its start try­ing to shake up the pes­ti­cides mar­ket for in­dus­tri­al agri­cul­ture, spend­ing most of its ear­ly ef­forts here since be­ing found­ed in 2008 be­fore piv­ot­ing to hu­man health in late 2019, ear­ly 2020. CEO An­drey Zarur told End­points News that Green­Light’s plat­form com­bines two mR­NA ap­proach­es — one that in­volves fer­men­ta­tion-based process­es and an­oth­er uti­lized by high-pro­file com­pa­nies like Mod­er­na and BioN­Tech in­volv­ing tran­scrip­tion.

This “hy­brid” mod­el, Zarur said, can hope­ful­ly en­able Green­Light to pro­duce mR­NA-based prod­ucts at a much high­er scale and much low­er cost than the big­ger names. The re­sult is what the com­pa­ny calls “cell-free bio­pro­cess­ing.”

“We use the same types of cells that are used to make an­ti­bod­ies, used in fer­men­ta­tion process,” Zarur said. “They’re very in­ex­pen­sive and com­mon­ly used. We grow them, then we har­vest the raw ma­te­ri­als. It’s no dif­fer­ent than if plant­i­ng plants and har­vest­ing the fruits.”

Zarur added that Green­Light had nev­er planned on stop­ping at agri­cul­ture, but it was the first ap­pli­ca­tion where the com­pa­ny di­rect­ed its plat­form. He tout­ed Green­Light’s sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry pan­el, in­clud­ing famed UPenn mR­NA re­searcher Drew Weiss­man, as piv­otal to help­ing the com­pa­ny branch out in­to life sci­ences a cou­ple years ago.

“When we de­cid­ed to move in­to hu­man health­care, we didn’t do it blind­ly,” Zarur said. “We didn’t do this half-assed.”

This past spring, Green­Light wel­comed a for­mer GSK Vac­cines staffer to help fur­ther things along in Amin Khan. Khan, a mem­ber of the group’s R&D lead­er­ship team, is at least the fourth GSK Vac­cines ex­ec to leave the com­pa­ny in the last sev­er­al months as it wait­ed and fell far be­hind in the Covid-19 hunt.

Be­fore Khan came Jef­frey Ul­mer, who de­part­ed in Ju­ly 2020; Amir Re­ich­man, for­mer head of glob­al vac­cines en­gi­neer­ing core tech­nolo­gies, who left in Jan­u­ary 2021; and Em­manuel Hanon, the for­mer chief of vac­cines re­search, who took a new job this past April. GSK al­so saw their pres­i­dent of US phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Jack Bai­ley, de­part in the sum­mer of 2020 to take the CEO gig at G1 Ther­a­peu­tics.

With the glut of SPAC pric­ings hav­ing slowed down from ear­li­er this year, more and more blank check com­pa­nies are find­ing part­ners to bring to Nas­daq. More than $18 bil­lion has flowed in­to the biotech sec­tor alone, per the End­points News tal­ly, fol­low­ing near­ly a dozen merg­ers an­nounced in the sec­ond quar­ter. Green­Light is the fourth biotech SPAC to an­nounce its merg­er so far in the third quar­ter.

Eliem com­pletes rapid IPO rise

Eliem Ther­a­peu­tics has com­plet­ed its quick as­cent to Nas­daq af­ter emerg­ing from stealth just this past March, rais­ing $80 mil­lion and pric­ing shares at $12.50 apiece.

The biotech had like­ly been work­ing on an IPO for a lit­tle while, as it had de­clined in­ter­view re­quests af­ter a $60 mil­lion Se­ries B back in May. Eliem is mak­ing its pub­lic de­but with a pipeline of four neu­ro as­sets led by a pro­drug of an en­do­cannabi­noid known as palmi­toylethanolamide, or PEA.

Re­search for the com­pound had been in pos­ses­sion by RA Cap­i­tal, where Eliem was in­cu­bat­ed. Eliem’s lead can­di­date ETX-810 is cur­rent­ly in two Phase IIa stud­ies look­ing at di­a­bet­ic pe­riph­er­al neu­ro­path­ic pain and lum­bosacral radic­u­lar pain. Da­ta read­outs are ex­pect­ed for the first half of 2022.

RA Cap­i­tal is the big win­ner of the IPO, as the firm con­trolled more than 52% of shares be­fore the of­fer­ing. Post-of­fer­ing, RA will still own about a 40% stake, ac­cord­ing to the S-1. The firm AI ETI, backed by Ac­cess In­dus­tries Hold­ings, al­so takes home a 16.9% stake once the of­fer­ing con­cludes.

And Va­lerie Moris­set, the long­time pain re­searcher who took the CSO job at Eliem, will win an IPO prize as well. Mor­riset gets 1.2% of shares post-of­fer­ing.

Eliem will trade un­der the tick­er $ELYM.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.

Kite Phar­ma gets FDA to sign off on new Cal­i­for­nia-based vec­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Kite Pharma just got FDA approval to kick off operations at a new manufacturing campus.

The cancer-focused, CAR-T cell therapy player made the announcement Monday, saying that the federal regulatory agency gave the green light to Kite’s 100,000 square-foot, retroviral vector manufacturing facility in Oceanside, CA.

Kite’s global head of technical operations Chris McDonald tells Endpoints News that the facility has been in the works for about four years, after Kite teamed up with its parent company Gilead. Gilead acquired Kite Pharma for just shy of $12 billion in 2017.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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