Wak­sal's gene ther­a­py spin­off MeiraGTx says it’s time to fly with an $86M IPO

Alexan­dria “Zandy” Forbes

Three years af­ter Sam Wak­sal’s Kad­mon spun out its gene ther­a­py tech in­to a start­up called MeiraGTx, the New York-based biotech says it’s ready to come out to play on Nas­daq.

Wak­sal, an ex-con once sen­tenced to prison for his in­sid­er trad­ing con­vic­tion in­volv­ing Martha Stew­art, had to leave Kad­mon be­fore the com­pa­ny was able to com­plete its own IPO. And now his brain­child — un­der the di­rec­tion of for­mer Kad­mon com­mer­cial chief Alexan­dria Forbes — has pen­ciled in an $86 mil­lion raise in its own S-1.

MeiraGTx has been large­ly fly­ing un­der the radar in the gene ther­a­py field, but Wak­sal of­fered his trade­mark brand of hype in pump­ing the tech. The S-1 is stick­ing clos­er to out­lin­ing where the biotech’s ear­ly-stage work is fo­cused, and where it hopes to ex­pand its pipeline work.

The com­pa­ny has been build­ing out gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions to sup­port its work, which is ini­tial­ly fo­cused on oph­thal­mol­o­gy, or eye dis­eases, where the first gen­er­a­tion of de­vel­op­ers found some ear­ly suc­cess­es in the field. Like Spark’s pi­o­neer­ing RPE65 ther­a­py Lux­tur­na, MeiraGTx — which has burned through $81 mil­lion to get to this point — has the same ba­sic tar­get in mind. 

Its three on­go­ing Phase I/II stud­ies al­so in­clude a tri­al in­volv­ing achro­matop­sia re­lat­ed to mu­ta­tions in CNGB3 and X-linked re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa re­lat­ed to mu­ta­tions in RP­GR.

The com­pa­ny’s S-1 al­so in­cludes an out­line of its plans to use its vi­ral vec­tors to de­liv­er small mol­e­cules. And there’s an ac­tive neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion seg­ment fo­cused on ALZ and Alzheimer’s, specif­i­cal­ly re­gard­ing “restor­ing nor­mal en­do­so­mal func­tion to the neu­rons that are the first to be af­fect­ed in Alzheimer’s dis­ease…”

Kad­mon — whose shares have been bump­ing along at a frac­tion of their peak — still owns 17% of the com­pa­ny, the biggest mi­nor­i­ty share­hold­er. Alexan­dria Forbes, who was a se­ri­ous sci­en­tist be­fore she dove in­to hedge fund work, has kept a 4.5% stake in the biotech.

Bo­fA Mer­rill Lynch, Bar­clays and Ever­core ISI are the joint bookrun­ners on the deal.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Bull­ish biotech mar­ket pro­pels Pli­ant to $144M IPO — as No­var­tis pro­vides a $10M boost

After pharma partner Novartis boosted its IPO with a $10 million private placement, Pliant Therapeutics has wrapped its journey to the Nasdaq on a high note.

Pliant had penciled in a $86 million raise back in May. But as has become the norm in recent months, that initial number has turned out to be a mere placeholder, making way for the final haul of $144 million.

The South San Francisco biotech did so by pricing at $16, the high end of the range, while bringing the number of shares offered up to 9 million.

A low-pro­file biotech bests Re­gen­eron in high-pro­file patent suit

For nearly a decade now, the low-profile Cambridge biotech Kymab has been battling in US, UK, Japanese and Australian courts with the biotech behemoth Regeneron.

Regeneron has turned itself into a $70 billion company off of a platform of transgenically humanized mice they can use to make antibodies for anything from Ebola to colorectal cancer. The technology took decades and billions to build, 20 years from the company’s founding to the first approved drug. And the company guards and touts it zealously, breaking their production process down into various branded components — Velocimmune, Velocigene, Velocimouse and four other Velocis — and sometimes suing would-be copycats. In 2014, most notably, they sued two Pfizer-backed entities for patent infringement.

Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Cameron Durrant, Humanigen CEO (Columbia University Technology Ventures via YouTube)

Cameron Dur­rant hus­tled his way from the OTC side­lines right in­to the Covid-19 drug race. Death or glo­ry lies straight ahead

Over the past few months, Covid-19 has gone from being a monolithic threat to one of the biggest overnight boons the biopharma industry has ever seen. And amid all the furor over Moderna’s swelling stock price, plenty of chatter over what new drugs and vaccines will cost and investors’ uninhibited zeal for all things related to pandemic products, it’s been one little biotech’s golden ticket back from the land of the living dead.

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Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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