Vivek Ra­maswamy bags $100M in risk cap­i­tal to back his lat­est PhI­II gam­ble at Der­ma­vant — while Urovant dives in­to gene ther­a­py

Vivek Ra­maswamy

Just a few days af­ter clos­ing on a $330 mil­lion deal with Glax­o­SmithK­line to reel in a Phase III-ready drug for the crowd­ed R&D field of pso­ri­a­sis and atopic der­mati­tis, Vivek Ra­maswamy’s Der­ma­vant inked a $100 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing deal to help pay for the next step in the clin­ic.

And that’s not all. The biotech fi­nancier al­so brought in an­oth­er key play­er for his Roivant um­brel­la or­ga­ni­za­tion, re­cruit­ing an in­vest­ment chair from NEA. And an­oth­er one of his com­pa­nies — Urovant — just in-li­censed a gene ther­a­py for over­ac­tive blad­ders.

Jack­ie Fouse

Der­ma­vant, helmed by ex-Cel­gene ex­ec Jack­ie Fouse, bagged $100 mil­lion in fi­nanc­ing from No­vaQue­st Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment “in ex­change for con­di­tion­al mile­stone pay­ments achieved by tap­inarof.”

The non­s­teroidal an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry top­i­cal cream— which ac­ti­vates the aryl hy­dro­car­bon re­cep­tor — hasn’t been a high-pro­file agent. But re­searchers have high­light­ed promis­ing da­ta to un­der­score its po­ten­tial.

No­vaQue­st fills a role that gets a lot of play but lit­tle at­ten­tion in the in­dus­try. Its port­fo­lio of com­pa­nies is filled with Big Phar­ma play­ers, like Pfiz­er and Sanofi, that can’t af­ford to fund every­thing they might like to try out in the clin­ic. In their case No­vaQue­st can put up the risk cap­i­tal where it sees a pay­back from struc­tured mile­stone pay­ments or roy­al­ties from an ap­proved prod­uct.

Frank Tor­ti

Now Frank Tor­ti can help over­see these in­vest­ment deals as the new “Vant In­vest­ment Chair,” charged with help­ing su­per­vise the grow­ing brood of biotechs un­der Ra­maswamy’s Roivant ban­ner. He’ll be op­er­at­ing along­side Genen­tech vet Myr­tle Pot­ter, the new “Vant Op­er­at­ing Chair.”

VCs will re­mem­ber that Tor­ti, who op­er­at­ed out of NEA’s Men­lo Park of­fice, had a port­fo­lio of com­pa­nies that in­clud­ed Der­mi­ra, Peplin and Ca­dence Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, bought out by Mallinck­rodt.

Urovant, mean­while, is be­ing giv­en a chance to test a once-and-done ther­a­py for over­ac­tive blad­der. Sep­a­rate­ly from the Der­ma­vant news and the lat­est hire, this oth­er Roivant com­pa­ny grabbed rights to hMaxi-K from Ion Chan­nel In­no­va­tions. The pro­gram has been through some ear­ly-stage tri­al work on safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy but still has a long ways to go be­fore any reg­u­la­to­ry sub­mis­sion.

Urovant is al­so in Phase III with vibegron, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al oral β3-adren­er­gic ag­o­nist be­ing stud­ied as a sec­ond-line treat­ment in adults with symp­toms of OAB.

“We are ea­ger to study the po­ten­tial of hMaxi-K as an al­ter­na­tive ther­a­py for OAB pa­tients who are not get­ting ad­e­quate re­lief from oth­er ther­a­pies,” said Kei­th A. Katkin, the CEO of Urovant. “Urovant al­so has ac­cess to gene ther­a­py ex­per­tise through the Roivant fam­i­ly of com­pa­nies.”

As Nas­daq en­rolls the fi­nal batch of 2019 IPOs, how have the num­bers com­pared to past years?

IGM Biosciences’ upsized IPO haul, coming after SpringWorks’ sizable public debut, has revved up some momentum for the last rush of biotech IPOs in 2019.

With 39 new listings on the books and roughly two more months to go before winding down, Nasdaq’s head of healthcare listings Jordan Saxe sees the exchange marking 50 to 60 biopharma IPOs for the year.

“December 15 is usually the last possible day that companies will price,” he said, as companies get ready for business talks at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in January.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

Scott Got­tlieb is once again join­ing a team that en­joyed good times at the FDA un­der his high-en­er­gy stint at the helm

Right after jumping on Michael Milken’s FasterCures board on Monday, the newly departed FDA commissioner is back today with news about another life sciences board post that gives him a ringside chair to cheer on a lead player in the real-world evidence movement — one with very close ties to the FDA.

Aetion is reporting this morning that Gottlieb is joining their board, a group that includes Mohamad Makhzoumi, a general partner at New Enterprise Associates, where Gottlieb returned after stepping out of his role at the FDA 2 years after he started.

Gottlieb — one of the best connected execs in biopharma — knows this company well. As head of FDA he championed the use of real-world evidence to help guide drug developers and the agency in gaining greater efficiencies, which helped set up Aetion as a high-profile player in the game.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 59,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.