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 Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.

Paul Grayson, Tentarix CEO (Versant)

Phar­ma vet­er­ans re­group with $50M and a plan to dis­cov­er new mul­ti-specifics

While a horde of drugmakers develops bispecific antibodies to more directly target tumor cells — there were about 100 programs in or nearing clinical trials back in May — a new company is emerging to go one step further.

On Thursday, Tentarix Biotherapeutics unveiled a $50 million Series A round to support its next-gen multi-specifics platform. While the field has largely focused on bispecifics, which engage two targets, Tentarix believes its multifunctional programs have the potential to be even more specific, since more conditions must be met for potent activity to occur.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.