What's big­ger than a uni­corn? Sa­mumed stuns yet again as an­ti-ag­ing pipeline draws $438M at $12B val­u­a­tion

Sa­mumed came out with a bang a cou­ple years ago, when it bold­ly an­nounced a cou­ple of an­ti-ag­ing pro­grams and a $12 bil­lion val­u­a­tion. The San Diego com­pa­ny, which op­er­at­ed in stealth through much of its first decade, had no late-stage pro­grams and no prod­ucts on the mar­ket at the time, caus­ing quite the hub­bub when it claimed uni­corn sta­tus.

To­day, that com­pa­ny has added $438 mil­lion of eq­ui­ty back­ing to its cof­fers, clos­ing a mega-round that adds to its pre­vi­ous­ly raised $212 mil­lion. And yet again, the com­pa­ny an­nounced its pre-mon­ey val­u­a­tion for the lat­est round at a whop­ping $12 bil­lion. Even in these go-go days of biotech, the dol­lars are eye-pop­ping.

The fig­ure will cer­tain­ly raise eye­brows, but that’s noth­ing new for Os­man Kibar, Sa­mumed’s pas­sion­ate and col­or­ful CEO. I met with Kibar back in 2016, tour­ing the rather qui­et halls of Sa­mumed’s head­quar­ters. His en­thu­si­asm for the com­pa­ny’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al os­teoarthri­tis drug left an im­pres­sion on me, as he fer­vent­ly sketched graphs on a white­board to help me un­der­stand the WNT path­way.

“We’re sit­ting on a gold­mine, and this is on­ly the tip of the ice­berg,” Kibar said at the time. “If our strat­e­gy was to sell, no one could af­ford us.”

Found­ed in 2008, Sa­mumed now has eight pro­grams in its pipeline: two Phase II drugs, five in Phase I, and one pre­clin­i­cal. Its late-stage pro­grams are in os­teoarthri­tis and an­dro­ge­net­ic alope­cia (hair loss).

The com­pa­ny’s Phase II tri­al in OA en­rolled 455 pa­tients and went for a year. This pa­tient pop­u­la­tion in­cludes over 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who suf­fer from car­ti­lage wear­ing away in their joints and the re­sult­ing pain as­so­ci­at­ed with move­ment. There’s no re­al treat­ment be­sides pain med­ica­tion, which can ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem (feel­ing less pain, pa­tients tend to move around more and fur­ther wear down that car­ti­lage). Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a sin­gle in­jec­tion, pa­tients showed car­ti­lage growth at the me­di­al joint.

But in Sa­mumed’s very brief press re­lease on this new round of fund­ing, the com­pa­ny did not men­tion where the mon­ey came from. That caught my at­ten­tion, be­cause when I first wrote about Sa­mumed, I thought the com­pa­ny’s lead in­vestors were odd choic­es: IKEA’s pri­vate ven­ture firm, anony­mous high-net-worth in­di­vid­u­als and a sin­gle ven­ture cap­i­tal firm called Vick­ers Ven­ture Part­ners. The biggest in­vestors are a fur­ni­ture com­pa­ny and a ven­ture firm with no his­to­ry of drug dis­cov­ery in­vest­ments. How could they rec­og­nize a valu­able in­vest­ment when they saw one?

I reached out to Kibar this morn­ing to see who was in this new syn­di­cate. Kibar replied with this:

Our ex­ist­ing in­vestors par­tic­i­pat­ed about ~15-20% of this round, the rest are new. And we went with pri­vate cap­i­tal again (fam­i­ly of­fices, high net worth in­di­vid­u­als, and sov­er­eign funds), no VC/PE (ex­cept Vick­ers).

Fin­ian Tan, chair­man at Vick­ers, at the time ex­plained that Sa­mumed was the first of many in­vest­ments in drug dis­cov­ery. Tan him­self is no rook­ie in health­care. He’s served as ex­ec­u­tive deputy chair­man of Sin­ga­pore’s Na­tion­al Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Board, as well as on the boards of The Na­tion­al Can­cer Cen­ter of Sin­ga­pore, ven­ture firm Life Sci­ences In­vest­ment, and SingHealth, the biggest health care group in Sin­ga­pore.

Though not a sci­en­tist him­self, he ap­par­ent­ly has a knack for eye­ing good in­vest­ments. Tan was an ear­ly in­vestor of Baidu, known as the “Google of Chi­na” and cur­rent­ly val­ued at $80 bil­lion. Tan said his ven­ture firm made the biggest en­try in­vest­ment it’s ever made with Sa­mumed due to the com­pa­ny’s unique­ly high re­ward vs. risk pro­file. The last time he made a sim­i­lar in­vest­ment was Baidu it­self, Tan said.

Sa­mumed’s drug dis­cov­ery plat­form could be “a break­through of huge pro­por­tions,” Tan said in an email. “The im­pact on hu­mankind would be an or­der of mag­ni­tude we have not seen since (Alexan­der) Flem­ing’s dis­cov­ery of an­tibi­otics (in the 1920s).”

Time will tell.

Kibar said Sa­mumed is tar­get­ing its first ap­proval with­in the next few years.

“This round takes us there (in­clud­ing all our pro­grams, clin­i­cal and pre­clin­i­cal pipeline), plus launch cost, plus some ex­tra cush­ion,” Kibar wrote in an email.


Im­age: Os­man Kibar.

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.

How to col­lect and sub­mit RWD to win ap­proval for a new drug in­di­ca­tion: FDA spells it out in a long-await­ed guid­ance

Real-world data is messy. There can be differences in the standards used to collect different types of data, differences in terminologies and curation strategies, and even in the way data is exchanged.

While acknowledging this somewhat controlled chaos, the FDA is now explaining how biopharma companies can submit study data derived from real-world data (RWD) sources in applicable regulatory submissions, including new drug indications.

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David Lockhart, ReCode Therapeutics CEO

Pfiz­er throws its weight be­hind LNP play­er eye­ing mR­NA treat­ments for CF, PCD

David Lockhart did not see the meteoric rise of messenger RNA and lipid nanoparticles coming.

Thanks to the worldwide fight against Covid-19, mRNA — the genetic code that can be engineered to turn the body into a mini protein factory — and LNPs, those tiny bubbles of fat carrying those instructions, have found their way into hundreds of millions of people. Within the biotech world, pioneers like Alnylam and Intellia have demonstrated just how versatile LNPs can be as a delivery vehicle for anything from siRNA to CRISPR/Cas9.

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David Livingston (Credit: Michael Sazel for CeMM)

Renowned Dana-Far­ber sci­en­tist, men­tor and bio­phar­ma ad­vi­sor David Liv­ingston has died

David Livingston, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Med scientist who helped shine a light on some of the key molecular drivers of breast and ovarian cancer, died unexpectedly last Sunday.

One of the senior leaders at Dana-Farber during his nearly half century of work there, Livingston was credited with shedding light on the genes that regulate cell growth, with insights into inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that helped lay the scientific foundation for targeted therapies and earlier detection that have transformed the field.

Leen Kawas (L) has resigned as CEO of Athira and will be replaced by COO Mark Litton

Ex­clu­sive: Athi­ra CEO Leen Kawas re­signs af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds she ma­nip­u­lat­ed da­ta

Leen Kawas, CEO and founder of the Alzheimer’s upstart Athira Pharma, has resigned after an internal investigation found she altered images in her doctoral thesis and four other papers that were foundational to establishing the company.

Mark Litton, the company’s COO since June 2019 and a longtime biotech executive, has been named full-time CEO. Kawas, meanwhile, will no longer have ties to the company except for owning a few hundred thousand shares.

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL, foreground) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

Sen­a­tors back FDA's plan to re­quire manda­to­ry pre­scriber ed­u­ca­tion for opi­oids

Three Senate Democrats are backing an FDA plan to require mandatory prescriber education for opioids as overdose deaths have risen sharply over the past decade, with almost 97,000 American opioid-related overdose deaths in the past year alone.

While acknowledging a decline in overall opioid analgesic dispensing in recent years, the FDA said it’s reconsidering the need for mandatory prescriber training through a REMS given the current situation with overdoses, and is seeking input on the aspects of the opioid crisis that mandatory training could potentially mitigate.

Suresh Katta, Saama CEO (via YouTube)

As AI con­tin­ues to en­tice Big Phar­ma, a Car­lyle-led drug­mak­er syn­di­cate shells out $430M for cloud com­put­ing play­er

The AI revolution permeating Big Pharma took a big financial step forward Wednesday, with VCs and major drugmakers coming together to acquire a cloud-focused company.

Led by the Carlyle Group, the investors will put up $430 million for a majority stake in Saama, a company that collects patient data to help speed along the drug development process. The investment arms of Pfizer, Merck, Amgen and McKesson all participated in the financing, in addition to other prominent life sciences VCs like Northpond.

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Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Ven­tyx sprints to Wall Street less than a year af­ter emerg­ing from stealth

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

It took seven months from exiting “quiet mode” for Ventyx Biosciences to land its very own stock ticker, raising $165 million in venture funds along the way.

Now, after pricing a massive $151.5 million IPO, the Encinitas, CA-based biotech is gunning for Phase II.

Ventyx priced close to 9.5 million shares at $16 apiece on Wednesday, the midpoint of its $15 to $17 range. CEO Raju Mohan filed the S-1 papers at the end of September, just over a week after unveiling a $114 million Series B round. He penciled in the standard figure of $100 million at first, likely knowing that in the last year, it’s been common for biotechs to raise much more than those initial estimates.

Bris­tol My­ers pledges to sell its Ac­celeron shares as ac­tivist in­vestors cir­cle Mer­ck­'s $11.5B buy­out — re­port

Just as Avoro Capital’s campaign to derail Merck’s proposed $11.5 billion buyout of Acceleron gains steam, Bristol Myers Squibb is leaning in with some hefty counterweight.

The pharma giant is planning to tender its Acceleron shares, Bloomberg reported, which add up to a sizable 11.5% stake. Based on the offer price, the sale would net Bristol Myers around $1.3 billion.

To complete its deal, Merck needs a majority of shareholders to agree to sell their shares.