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.

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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