With bio­phar­ma IPOs surg­ing, GoodRx guns for $750M raise

The 2020 bio­phar­ma IPO wave has picked up a com­pa­ny or two that doesn’t look like your tra­di­tion­al drug de­vel­op­er. In June, most no­tably, Roy­al­ty Phar­ma, a com­pa­ny that has made a tidy busi­ness over the years buy­ing up fu­ture roy­al­ties for ap­proved and ex­per­i­men­tal drugs, nabbed the largest biotech — if you can a call it a biotech — IPO in his­to­ry at $2.2 bil­lion.

Then on Fri­day, af­ter a week dom­i­nat­ed by small-cap of­fer­ings like Virios Ther­a­peu­tics, GoodRx an­nounced they too would try to go pub­lic. And al­though they don’t quite have Pablo Legor­re­ta-like am­bi­tions, the con­sumer pre­scrip­tion drug plat­form and drug price watch­dog is re­port­ed­ly still shoot­ing well above Mod­er­na: $750 mil­lion.

GoodRx was one of two no­table bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies to file on the SEC late Fri­day, along with the UK-based psilo­cy­bin biotech Com­pass Path­ways. Both jot­ted $100 mil­lion for their goal raise, al­though that fig­ure has be­come a stan­dard place­hold­er for biotechs this year, be­fore com­pa­nies ful­ly gauge in­ter­est and re­place it with a more head­line-grab­bing num­ber. Ren­nais­sance Cap­i­tal ex­pects GoodRx to col­lect up to $750 mil­lion.

That fig­ure — three times what, say, lead­ing Covid-19 vac­cine de­vel­op­er Cure­Vac, raised — may be sur­pris­ing for a com­pa­ny that might be most known for putting out an­nu­al lists of the world’s most ex­pen­sive drugs and help­ing folks, par­tic­u­lar­ly se­niors, com­pare prices for their pre­scrip­tion med­i­cines. But GoodRx has in fact be­come quite prof­itable over the last four years. In 2019, they raked in $388 mil­lion, for a prof­it of $66 mil­lion. Through the first of half of this year, they were on track to take in $500 mil­lion and pock­et $100 mil­lion.

How do they do that? Al­though the com­pa­ny says on its site that they make mon­ey from “ad­ver­tise­ments on our site and re­fer­ral fees,” the vast ma­jor­i­ty of rev­enue ac­tu­al­ly comes from the lat­ter, as they ac­knowl­edge in their IPO. When peo­ple use the GoodRx plat­form to find drug prices low­er than what phar­ma­cies set, they can then use the GoodRx code to buy the drug at that price. Phar­ma­cy ben­e­fit man­agers will then pay GoodRx a por­tion of the fee they get from the phar­ma­cy. Be­cause most pre­scrip­tions re­peat, it cre­ates a sta­ble source of rev­enue.

On Twit­ter, Adam Fein of Drug Chan­nels out­lined the ap­proach in greater depth.

Com­pass, by con­trast, is a more clas­sic drug de­vel­op­ment raise, though biotech de­vi­ates some from the tra­di­tion­al. As re­searchers and men­tal health providers have rekin­dled in­ter­est in the ther­a­peu­tic ap­pli­ca­tions of psy­che­delics, they have be­come per­haps the most close­ly-watched psy­che­del­ic drug de­vel­op­er. Par­tial­ly owned by ATAI, which has been amass­ing a port­fo­lio of biotechs fo­cused on al­ter­na­tive men­tal health ap­proach­es, the com­pa­ny patent­ed a method of pro­duc­ing psilo­cy­bin in a lab, a key step for as­sur­ing it can be mass-pro­duced and prof­itable. (Psilo­cy­bin, a nat­ur­al prod­uct found in mush­rooms and dis­cov­ered decades ago, is not patentable on its own, a stum­bling block for in­dus­try.)

The com­pa­ny, which is al­so backed by Pe­ter Thiel, most re­cent­ly raised $80 mil­lion in April to move in­to Phase III for treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion. Their drug has al­ready re­ceived break­through des­ig­na­tion in that field, and they’ll use pro­ceeds from the round to push through clin­i­cal test­ing and in­to oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal in­di­ca­tions.

So­cial: Shut­ter­stock

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA have vowed not to let politics get in the way of science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped health agencies under his purview — including the FDA — of their rulemaking ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO

UP­DAT­ED: An­a­lysts are quick to pan Eli Lil­ly's puz­zling first cut of pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta for its Covid-19 an­ti­body

Eli Lilly spotlighted a success for one of 3 doses of their closely-watched Covid-19 antibody drug Wednesday morning. But analysts quickly highlighted some obvious anomalies that could come back to haunt the pharma giant as it looks for an emergency use authorization to launch marketing efforts.

The pharma giant reported that LY-CoV555, developed in collaboration with AbCellera, significantly reduced the rate of hospitalization among patients who were treated with the antibody. The drug arm of the study had a 1.7% hospitalization rate, compared to 6% in the control group, marking a 72% drop in risk.

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Eli Lilly CSO Dan Skovronsky (file photo)

#ES­MO20: Eli Lil­ly shows off the da­ta for its Verzenio suc­cess. Was it worth $18 bil­lion?

The press release alone, devoid of any number except for the size of the trial, added nearly $20 billion to Eli Lilly’s market cap back in June. Now investors and oncologists will get to see if the data live up to the hype.

On Sunday at ESMO, Eli Lilly announced the full results for its Phase III MonarchE trial of Verzenio, showing that across over 5,000 women who had had HR+, HER2- breast cancer, the drug reduced the odds of recurrence by 25%. That meant 7.8% of the patients on the drug arm saw their cancers return within 2 years, compared with 11.3% on the placebo arm.

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Greg Friberg (File photo)

#ES­MO20: Am­gen team nails down sol­id ear­ly ev­i­dence of AMG 510’s po­ten­tial for NSCLC, un­lock­ing the door to a wave of KRAS pro­grams

The first time I sat down with Amgen’s Greg Friberg to talk about the pharma giant’s KRAS G12C program for sotorasib (AMG 510) at ASCO a little more than a year ago, there was high excitement about the first glimpse of efficacy from their Phase I study, with 5 of 10 evaluable non-small cell lung cancer patients demonstrating a response to the drug.

After decades of failure targeting KRAS, sotorasib offered the first positive look at a new approach that promised to open a door to a whole new approach by targeting a particular mutation to a big target that had remained “undruggable” for decades.

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#ES­MO20: Out to beat Tagris­so, J&J touts 100% ORR for EGFR bis­pe­cif­ic/TKI com­bo — fu­el­ing a quick leap to PhI­II

J&J’s one-two punch on EGFR-mutant non-small cell lung cancer has turned up some promising — although decidedly early — results, fueling the idea that there’s yet room to one up on third-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Twenty out of 20 advanced NSCLC patients had a response after taking a combination of an in-house TKI dubbed lazertinib and amivantamab, a bispecific antibody targeting both EGFR and cMET engineered on partner Genmab’s platform, J&J reported at ESMO. All were treatment-naïve, and none has seen their cancer progress at a median follow-up of seven months.

#ES­MO20: As­traZeneca aims to spur PRO­found shift in prostate can­cer treat­ment with Lyn­parza OS da­ta

AstraZeneca has unveiled the final, mature overall survival data that cemented Lynparza’s first approval in prostate cancer approval — touting its lead against rivals with the only PARP inhibitor to have demonstrated such benefit.

But getting the Merck-partnered drug to the right patients remains a challenge, something the companies are hoping to change with the new data cut.

The OS numbers on the subgroup with BRCA1/2 or ATM-mutated metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer are similar to the first look on offer when the FDA expanded the label in May: Lynparza reduced the risk of death by 31% versus Xtandi and Zytiga. Patients on Lynparza lived a median of 19.1 months, compared to 14.7 months for the anti-androgen therapies (p = 0.0175).

#ES­MO20: It’s not just Keytru­da any­more — Mer­ck spot­lights 3 top ear­ly-stage can­cer drugs

Any $12 billion megablockbuster in the portfolio tends to overshadow everything else in the pipeline. Which is something Merck can tell you a little bit about.

Keytruda not only dominates the PD-(L)1 field, it looms over everything Merck does, to the point some analysts wonder if Merck is a one-trick pony.

There’s no shortage of Keytruda data on display at ESMO this weekend, but now the focus is shifting to the future role of new drugs and combos in maintaining that lead position for years to come. And the pharma giant has a special focus for 3 early-stage efforts where Roger Perlmutter’s oncology team is placing some big bets.

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Exelixis CEO Michael Morrissey (file photo)

#ES­MO20: Look out Mer­ck. Bris­tol My­ers and Ex­elix­is stake out their com­bo’s claim to best-in-class sta­tus for front­line kid­ney can­cer

Now that the PD-(L)1 checkpoints are deeply entrenched in the oncology market, it’s time to welcome a wave of combination therapies — beyond chemo — looking to extend their benefit to larger numbers of patients. Bristol Myers Squibb ($BMY} and Exelixis {EXEL} are close to the front of that line.

Today at ESMO the collaborators pulled the curtain back on some stellar data for their combination of Opdivo (the PD-1) and Cabometyx (the TKI), marking a significant advance for the blockbuster Bristol Myers franchise while offering a big leg up for the team at Exelixis.

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Donald Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, before boarding Marine One (Getty Images)

Pric­ing deal col­laps­es over Big Phar­ma's re­fusal to is­sue $100 'cash card­s' be­fore the elec­tion — re­port

Late in August, as negotiations on a pricing deal with President Trump reached a boiling point, PhRMA president Stephen Ubl sent an email update to the 34 biopharma chiefs that sit on his board. He wrote that if the industry did not agree to pay for a $100 “cash card” sent to seniors before November, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was going to tell the news media Big Pharma was refusing to “share the savings” with the elderly — and that all of the blame for failed drug pricing negotiations would lie squarely on the industry.