Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford fired from flag­ship fund — which won't re­open af­ter all

The de­ba­cle around Neil Wood­ford’s sus­pend­ed flag­ship fund is com­ing to an abrupt end.

Link Fund So­lu­tions, the au­tho­rized cor­po­rate di­rec­tor of the Wood­ford Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund, is sack­ing the dis­graced stock­pick­er from his name­sake fund and wind­ing it down. Be­gin­ning in Jan­u­ary, the firm’s des­ig­nat­ed bro­kers will grad­u­al­ly sell off all as­sets in the port­fo­lio to pay back the trapped in­vestors — with the first in­stall­ment due by the end of that month.

“Whilst progress has been made in re­la­tion to repo­si­tion­ing the Fund’s port­fo­lio, this has un­for­tu­nate­ly not been suf­fi­cient to al­low rea­son­able cer­tain­ty as to when the repo­si­tion­ing would be ful­ly achieved and the Fund could be re-opened” by the De­cem­ber dead­line, Link wrote in a let­ter to in­vestors.

Wood­ford, who first froze the Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund in June and has since been on a mis­sion to ob­tain enough cash flow to meet po­ten­tial re­demp­tions by switch­ing out the pri­vate, illiq­uid parts of the £3.7 bil­lion fund for list­ed stocks, balked at the an­nounce­ment.

“This was Link’s de­ci­sion and one I can­not ac­cept, nor be­lieve is in the long-term in­ter­ests [of in­vestors],” he said in a state­ment sent to a num­ber of UK out­lets.

Link still needs for­mal ap­proval from the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty to start the process. Hav­ing been in con­tact with the com­pa­ny since June, the reg­u­la­to­ry watch­dog says it wel­comes the re­moval of un­cer­tain­ty by Link’s move.

That said, the FCA’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the ac­tiv­i­ties lead­ing to the sus­pen­sion of the fund is still on­go­ing.

Black­Rock Ad­vi­sors has been tapped to han­dle the liq­uid hold­ings, while PJT Part­ners — which has been work­ing with Wood­ford on the fire sales — re­mains in charge of the “less eas­i­ly sold as­sets.”

As to how much in­vestors can ex­pect to re­ceive from the wind­ing-up process, FCA has this guid­ance in its Q&A:

The amount you will re­ceive will de­pend on the fund’s val­ue and the amount raised by sell­ing the fund’s as­sets. The fund’s val­ue fluc­tu­ates in line with the mar­ket val­ues of its un­der­ly­ing as­sets. If as­sets are sold for low­er prices, you will re­ceive less from the wind­ing-up process and this al­so may be less than you orig­i­nal­ly in­vest­ed.

A num­ber of biotechs backed by Wood­ford in­clud­ing Im­muno­core and Benev­o­len­tAI have re­port­ed­ly seen their val­u­a­tions drop, hurt­ing his — and now Link’s — chances of re­triev­ing near­ly as much as he’s put in.

The clos­ing of a well-known fund that man­aged £10.2 mil­lion worth of as­sets at its peak shocks the mar­ket at a time the UK bio­phar­ma in­dus­try is do­ing some se­ri­ous soul search­ing. In a new re­port, the In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Re­search sug­gests the life sci­ences sec­tor has ex­pe­ri­enced a “lost decade” in which £15 bil­lion in R&D fund­ing that would have been in­vest­ed in the UK had gone else­where.

“This col­lapse is on a par with the im­plo­sion of New Star at the height of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and it will shake the fund’s in­dus­try to its core,” Adri­an Low­cock, head of per­son­al in­vest­ment at the in­vest­ment plat­form Willis Owen, told the Fi­nan­cial Times.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

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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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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Leen Kawas, Athira CEO (Athira)

Can a small biotech suc­cess­ful­ly tack­le an Ever­est climb like Alzheimer’s? Athi­ra has $85M and some in­flu­en­tial back­ers ready to give it a shot

There haven’t been a lot of big venture rounds for biotech companies looking to run a Phase II study in Alzheimer’s.

The field has been a disaster over the past decade. Amyloid didn’t pan out as a target — going down in a litany of Phase III failures — and is now making its last stand at Biogen. Tau is a comer, but when you look around and all you see is destruction, the idea of backing a startup trying to find complex cocktails to swing the course of this devilishly complicated memory-wasting disease would daunt the pluckiest investors.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

RA Cap­i­tal, Hill­house join $310M rush to back Ever­est's climb to com­mer­cial heights in Chi­na

Money has never been an issue for Everest Medicines. With an essentially open tab from their founders at C-Bridge Capital, the biotech has gone two and a half years racking up drug after drug, bringing in top exec after top exec, and issuing clinical update after update.

But now other investors want in — and they’re betting big.

Everest is closing its Series C at $310 million. The first $50 million comes from the Jiashan National Economic and Technological Development Zone; the remaining C-2 tranche was led by Janchor Partners, with RA Capital Management and Hillhouse Capital as co-leaders. Decheng Capital, GT Fund, Janus Henderson Investors, Rock Springs Capital, Octagon Investments all joined.

David Meline (file photo)

Mod­er­na’s new CFO took a cut in salary to jump to the mR­NA rev­o­lu­tion­ary. But then there’s the rest of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age

David Meline took a little off the top of his salary when he jumped from the CFO post at giant Amgen to become the numbers czar at the upstart vaccines revolutionary Moderna. But the SEC filing that goes with a major hire also illustrates how it puts him in line for a fortune — provided the biotech player makes good as a promising game changer.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with the base salary: $600,000. Or the up-to 50% annual cash bonus — an industry standard — that comes with it. True, the 62-year-old earned $999,000 at Amgen in 2019, but it’s the stock options that really count in the current market bliss for all things biopharma. And there Meline did well.

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Por­tion of Neil Wood­ford’s re­main­ing in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing Nanopore, sold off for $284 mil­lion

It’s been precisely one year and one day since Neil Woodford froze his once-vaunted fund, and while a global pandemic has recently shielded him from the torrent of headlines, the fallout continues.

Today, the California-based patent licensing firm Acacia Research acquired the fund’s shares for 19 healthcare and biotech companies for $284 million.  Those companies include shares for public and private companies and count some of Woodford’s most prominent bio-bets, such as Theravance Biopharma, Oxford Nanopore and Mereo Biopharma, according to Sky News, which first reported the sale. It won’t include shares for BenevelontAI, the machine learning biotech once valued at $2 billion.