With a $42M raise and a re­verse merg­er, Syn­log­ic makes a quick flip on­to Nas­daq

Jose Car­los Gutier­rez-Ramos

Jose Car­los Gutier­rez-Ramos has found the back door to Nas­daq.

The CEO at Cam­bridge, MA-based Syn­log­ic is ex­e­cut­ing a re­verse merg­er with the failed Austin-based biotech Mir­na Ther­a­peu­tics, which will put the syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny in­to the pub­lic mar­ket. And in ad­di­tion, the  biotech says that it re­cent­ly closed a $42 mil­lion C round to back its tran­si­tion in­to the spot­light of pub­lic re­port­ing.

Re­verse merg­ers are cer­tain­ly not un­usu­al. We’ve seen a string of com­pa­nies opt to hop on­to the burnt out shell of a failed biotech to re­verse their way on­to Wall Street — par­tic­u­lar­ly since the IPO boom died down. Re­cent­ly, though, IPOs have been pick­ing up, leav­ing many of the re­verse plays to ex­ecs who ei­ther didn’t want to do dozens of road shows for in­vestors or who felt that they wouldn’t get a par­tic­u­lar­ly warm re­cep­tion if they did.

Gutier­rez-Ramos left a promi­nent po­si­tion in Pfiz­er’s R&D or­ga­ni­za­tion to join the mi­gra­tion out of Big Phar­ma and in­to biotech cir­cles. But it’s still ear­ly days at the com­pa­ny, which spe­cial­izes in reengi­neer­ing bac­te­ria in­to ther­a­peu­tics. Syn­log­ic is plan­ning to start its first Phase I safe­ty study for a lead drug — SYNB1020 — for urea cy­cle dis­or­ders and he­pat­ic en­cephalopa­thy in the next few months. A sec­ond pro­gram is be­ing read­ied for the clin­ic with plans to tar­get phenylke­tonuria (PKU), which is caused by de­fec­tive me­tab­o­lism of the amino acid pheny­lala­nine.

The C round gives Syn­log­ic $82 mil­lion in cash on hand. The mon­ey was put up by Aju IB In­vest­ment, Al­ly Bridge Group, Arc­tic Au­ro­ra Life­Science, CLI Ven­tures, Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, Rock Springs Cap­i­tal, and “oth­er undis­closed new in­vestors.” At­las Ven­ture, Deer­field, New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, and Or­biMed, which helped back the com­pa­ny af­ter Gutier­rez-Ramos made the leap two years ago, al­so took part in the lat­est round.

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

President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

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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UP­DAT­ED: 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.

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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Adam Keeney (NodThera)

As NL­RP3 play­ers head for first clin­i­cal face-off, No­vo, Sanofi fu­el trans-At­lantic con­tender with $55M

In the relative short history of inflammasome research, Adam Keeney sees two time points marking major breakthroughs: the early 2000s, when the role of inflammasomes as a major innate immunity node was elucidated; and 2015, when Pfizer found out a compound it thought was targeting IL-1 actually blocks NLRP3. Keeney’s biotech, NodThera, was founded the year after alongside several others to create its own superior small molecule drugs.

FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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