People, Venture

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.”


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