Wood­ford's em­bat­tled in­vestors en­dure an­oth­er blow as £550M deal to sell-off biotech hold­ings fal­ters

Neil Wood­ford’s flag­ship fund is in the process of liq­ui­da­tion — and of­fload­ing the now shunned vet­er­an stock pick­er’s non-liq­uid hold­ings is prov­ing a bru­tal task.

In­vestors in the fund have re­port­ed­ly suf­fered yet an­oth­er set­back af­ter a £550 mil­lion deal to res­cue a port­fo­lio of his non-liq­uid stakes in biotech star­tups col­lapsed, which could cul­mi­nate in a fire sale of the hold­ings.

The im­plo­sion of Wood­ford’s fund and his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the UK’s shrewdest stock pick­ers oc­curred last year, fol­low­ing a pro­tract­ed pe­ri­od of with­drawals and a sub­se­quent sus­pen­sion that left swathes of in­vestor cash trapped.

Af­ter 26 years at In­vesco, Wood­ford launched his cor­ner­stone eq­ui­ty in­come fund in 2014, rais­ing bil­lions to in­vest in the life sci­ences. But some of his bets — such as Prothena, Cir­cas­sia and North­west Bio turned sour, and those wrin­kles cul­mi­nat­ed in a long pe­ri­od of weak re­turns. Wood­ford orig­i­nal­ly an­chored his rep­u­ta­tion as a blue-chip in­vestor in com­pa­nies like GSK, but rat­tled by Gilead’s HIV prowess, he elect­ed to part ways with the British drug­mak­er in 2017 in a lengthy blog post en­ti­tled “Glax­it.”

In March, the vet­er­an was chid­ing his crit­ics for steer­ing in­vestors away and sul­ly­ing his rep­u­ta­tion, in an at­tempt to sti­fle the blood­let­ting in his Wood­ford Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund. In an in­ter­view with the Fi­nan­cial Times, Wood­ford said the rate of with­drawals from the fund put him at risk of be­ing “out of busi­ness in about two-and-a-half years.”

As the trust in Wood­ford’s bets waned (the size of the fund shrank from £10.2 bil­lion to £3.7 bil­lion in two years), he at­tempt­ed to shack­le his in­vestors by sus­pend­ing their abil­i­ty to re­deem any liq­uid­i­ty from the fund. Adding fu­el to the fire, Wood­ford re­fused to waive his £100,000-a-day in­vest­ment man­age­ment fee for the cor­ner­stone fund, de­spite out­rage from the UK’s Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty, and the chair of the Trea­sury se­lect com­mit­tee.

The saga lin­gered on when in Ju­ly Link Fund So­lu­tions (the of­fi­cial hold­er of the Wood­ford Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund) said in­vestors would be thwart­ed from re­demp­tions, sales or oth­er trans­ac­tions for an ad­di­tion­al 28 days. In the first days of sus­pen­sion, Wood­ford’s team sold at least £300 mil­lion in as­sets in an at­tempt to shift away from pri­vate com­pa­nies to­ward more liq­uid stocks. By Oc­to­ber, the dis­graced Wood­ford was fired and it was de­cid­ed that his flag­ship Eq­ui­ty In­come Fund would be wound up. “This was Link’s de­ci­sion and one I can­not ac­cept, nor be­lieve is in the long-term in­ter­ests [of in­vestors],” he told Reuters.

Late last month, Eq­ui­ty In­come in­vestors re­ceived their first pay­out, worth be­tween 48 pence and 58 pence for a pound, fol­low­ing the sale of the list­ed por­tion of the port­fo­lio by Black­Rock. Now, as the liq­ui­da­tion process drags on — get­ting rid of the fund’s non-liq­uid funds — rough­ly 26% of the hold­ings —  is prov­ing hard­er than an­tic­i­pat­ed.

A deal with a bou­tique life sci­ences-fo­cused in­vest­ment bank WG Part­ners to as­sem­ble a group of in­vestors to pur­chase that biotech port­fo­lio (which in­cludes stakes in biotech com­pa­nies such as Ox­ford Nanopore and Im­muno­core) has fall­en apart.

A spokesper­son for Link sug­gest­ed that it was not in the best in­ter­est of in­vestors to pro­vide a run­ning com­men­tary of the sales process.

“It is in the best in­ter­ests of all in­vestors for the Fund to be wound up on the ba­sis of an ‘or­der­ly re­al­iza­tion’ of the Fund’s as­sets, which in­volves the sale of the Fund’s as­sets over a rea­son­able pe­ri­od of time.”

End­points News has al­so con­tact­ed WG Part­ners for com­ment.

How Pa­tients with Epilep­sy Ben­e­fit from Re­al-World Da­ta

Amanda Shields, Principal Data Scientist, Scientific Data Steward

Keith Wenzel, Senior Business Operations Director

Andy Wilson, Scientific Lead

Real-world data (RWD) has the potential to transform the drug development industry’s efforts to predict and treat seizures for patients with epilepsy. Anticipating or controlling an impending seizure can significantly increase quality of life for patients with epilepsy. However, because RWD is secondary data originally collected for other purposes, the challenge is selecting, harmonizing, and analyzing the data from multiple sources in a way that helps support patients.

Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gink­go Bioworks re­sizes the de­f­i­n­i­tion of go­ing big in biotech, rais­ing $2.5B in a record SPAC deal that weighs in with a whop­ping $15B-plus val­u­a­tion

Ginkgo Bioworks execs always thought big. But today should redefine just how big an upstart biotech player can dream.

In the largest SPAC deal to clear the hurdles to Nasdaq, the biotech that envisioned everything from remaking synthetic meat to a whole new approach to developing drugs has joined forces with one of the biggest disruptors in biotech to slam the Richter scale on dealmaking.

Soon after becoming the darling of the VC crew and clearing the bar on a $4 billion valuation, Ginkgo — a synthetic biotech player out to reprogram cells with industrial efficiency — has now struck a deal to go public in the latest leviathan SPAC that sets its pre-money valuation at $15 billion. In one swift vault, Ginkgo will combine with Harry Sloan’s Soaring Eagle Acquisition Corp. and leap into the public markets.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 105,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA un­veils six ICH guide­lines ahead of meet­ing with Health Cana­da

A sign that the FDA’s non-Covid-related processes are beginning to normalize: The release of six guidelines from the International Council of Harmonisation.

Years in development, the ICH documents offer an international perspective on drug development, with these latest guidelines covering everything from recommendations to support the classification of drug substances, featured in the M9 guidance, to standards for nonclinical safety studies for pediatric medicines in the S11 guideline.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Chris Garabedian (Xontogeny)

Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, Xon­toge­ny bring the band back and then some with a $515M sec­ond fund sniff­ing out lead com­pounds

When Perceptive Advisors and startup accelerator Xontogeny initially teamed up on an early-stage VC round in 2019, the partners hoped to prove their investments could be a force multiplier for early-stage companies. Now, with that proof of concept behind them, the pair have closed a second VC round worth more than double the money.

Dubbed PXV Fund II and headed by Xontogeny CEO and former Sarepta head Chris Garabedian, the $515 million fund will target 10 to 12 early-stage preclinical companies with Series A rounds in the $20 million to $40 million range with opportunities for Series B follow-ups. The oversubscribed fund is bringing the band back with initial investors from PXVI as well as new investors that include “top-tier” asset managers, endowments, foundations, family offices, and individual investors.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 105,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Stephen Squinto, Gennao Bio CEO (Gennao)

Alex­ion co-founder Stephen Squin­to is back in the game as CEO, this time for a small gene ther­a­py play­er

With his name already behind a rare disease success story in Alexion, Stephen Squinto was looking for a great story to drive him to jump back into the biotech game. He found that in a fledging non-viral gene therapy company, and now he’s got a few backers on board as well.

On Tuesday, Gennao Bio launched with a $40 million Series A co-led by OrbiMed and Logos Capital with participation by Surveyor Capital. The biotech, which is looking to use its cell-penetrating antibody platform to deliver nucleic acid “payloads” during into the nucleus, had to rush for its initial series — and had a name change along the way.

Sanofi, Glax­o­SmithK­line, Boehringer ac­cused of play­ing games, de­stroy­ing emails re­lat­ed to law­suit over con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed Zan­tac

A recent court filing raises new questions about how major pharma companies like Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and Boehringer Ingelheim have dealt with a lawsuit related to recalls of certain over-the-counter heartburn drugs due to the presence of a potentially cancer-causing substance found in them.

More than 70,000 people who took Sanofi’s Zantac and other heartburn drugs containing ranitidine, which have been recalled over the past two years, have sued the manufacturers, including generic drugmakers, and other retailers and distributors as part of a consolidated suit before US District Court Judge Robin Rosenberg in Florida.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 105,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Dan Vahdat, Huma CEO (Yang Guanyu/Xinhua/Alamy Live News)

With back­ing from Bay­er, a Lon­don firm will pitch its 'hos­pi­tals at home' con­cept for de­cen­tral­ized tri­als

Money is flying for companies promising to revolutionize the way clinical trials are conducted. Leaps by Bayer is the latest to get behind one of these players, leading a $200 million venture round for Huma Therapeutics and its digital “hospital at home” tech.

London-based Huma unveiled a $130 million Series C on Wednesday, which it will use to expand its digital platform in the US, Asia and the Middle East. As part of the round, the company can exercise another $70 million commitment later on.

David Halbert, Caris Life Sciences CEO (Caris via Twitter)

The grow­ing liq­uid biop­sy field sees a uni­corn en­trant as Caris pulls in $830M megaround

Caris Life Sciences has pulled in another massive raise, and this time they’re reportedly one step closer to launching their IPO.

The AI-focused Caris pulled in an $830 million growth equity round, the company announced Tuesday afternoon, earning a valuation of about $7.83 billion. Tuesday’s raise also brings their total financing amount to $1.3 billion since 2018 and $1.14 billion since last October. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the raise, Caris expects to complete their IPO sometime within the next 12 months.

A clos­er look at the FDA’s more than 700 pan­dem­ic-re­lat­ed record re­quests to re­place on­site in­spec­tions

As the pandemic constrained the FDA’s ability to travel for onsite manufacturing inspections, the agency increasingly turned to requesting records to fill the gap, even for hundreds of US-based facilities.

FDA explains in its guidance on manufacturing inspections during the pandemic that the agency can request records (not to be confused with the FDA’s remote interactive evaluations) directly from facilities “in advance of or in lieu of” certain onsite inspections. Companies are legally required to fulfill those requests because a denial may be considered limiting an inspection, which could lead to the FDA deeming a drug made at that site to be adulterated.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.