Bio Roundup: Cerevel’s Shell, Thrive’s Rise, Drug Price Drama & More

Xconomy National — 

The biotech IPO market is buzzing but Cerevel Therapeutics is showing that there’s more than one path to the public markets. This week the neuroscience drug developer reached a deal to merge with publicly traded Arya Sciences Acquisition Corp II.

If you’ve never heard of Arya (NASDAQ: ARYBU), it’s a shell company that Perceptive Advisors formed specifically to serve as a vehicle to take a private company public. Cerevel is young, but it’s pretty far along. Bain Capital and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) launched it in 2018 with neuroscience compounds from the pharma giant’s labs. Now Arya and a syndicate of new and earlier Cerevel investors are bringing fresh cash to support R&D. Upon the deal’s close in the fourth quarter, the biotech expects it will have about $445 million to apply toward a pipeline that includes three clinical-stage compounds for schizophrenia, anxiety, and Parkinson’s disease.

Life science news this week included plenty of other financing announcements, as deal flow surged even amid summer heat and physical distancing protocols. Let’s recap those news headlines now.


—AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) agreed to pay $1 billion to kick off an alliance focused on developing an early-stage Daiichi Sankyo antibody drug for breast and lung cancers.

Roche is paying $120 million up front for the rights to a clinical-stage UCB Alzheimer’s drug that targets the tau protein. UCB is still responsible for mid-stage tests of the antibody drug, UCB0107.

—Sangamo Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SGMO) signed its second pharma collaboration this year, inking a three-year agreement with Novartis (NYSE: NVS) to work with the Swiss biopharma to develop gene regulation therapies for neurodevelopmental disorders.

—San Diego’s Sorrento Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRNE) agreed to acquire SmartPharm, a Boston company developing a non-viral method for delivering gene therapies. No financial terms were disclosed.


Omega Therapeutics unveiled $85 million in financing to advance its pipeline of epigenomic medicines toward clinical testing.

Thrive Earlier Detection added $257 million to its coffers for a registrational trial of its blood test that is designed to detect cancers in asymptomatic people.

Nura Bio, a biotech started by The Column Group, launched with $73 million to move ahead its pipeline of preclinical drugs designed to address axonal degeneration and neuroinflammation.

—Less than three months after emerging from stealth with $100 million in cumulative financing, central nervous system drug developer Praxis Precision Medicines unveiled a fresh $110 million Series “C1” funding round that includes crossover investors.

—Sema4 raised $121 million in a Series C financing that included crossover investors. The Stamford, CT-based company’s software aggregates patient data and analyzes it, yielding insights that help physicians make treatment decisions.

—AristaMD, a San Diego-based telehealth company that links primary care providers with specialists for virtual consultations, has added $24 million so far this year to bulk up its sales team and continue refining its software.

—MBX Biosciences closed a $34.6 million Series A financing led by Frazier Healthcare Partners, money the Carmel, IN-based biotech will apply to its preclinical therapies for rare endocrine diseases.

—Italian biotech Enthera nabbed €28 million (about $33 million) in Series A financing to test its lead drug candidate in patients with type 1 diabetes. The funding was co-led by Sofinnova Partners and AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), the latter’s first investment in Italy.

—Versant Ventures’ Switzerland incubator launched another startup. Bright Peak Therapeutics debuted with $35 million and plans to use its protein engineering technology to develop therapeutic cytokines.

—Dutch biotech Vico Therapeutics raised $31 million in Series A financing to develop RNA modulating therapies that it aims to test in patients with spinocerebellar ataxia and Huntington’s disease in 2021.

—San Francisco-based Mantra Bio bagged a $25 million financing round led by 8VC and Viking Global Investors to advance its efforts to develop targeted therapies delivered via engineered exosomes.

—France’s DNA Script added $50 million to its Series B financing, bringing the total to $89 million in support of its plan to launch an enzymatic DNA benchtop printer next year.


—AlloVir (NASDAQ: ALVR) raised $276 million from its IPO, which will finance late-stage tests of an allogeneic cell therapy meant to treat and prevent viral infections in patients receiving stem cell and organ transplants.

Inhibrx is taking a second run at the public markets. After withdrawing its prospectus last year the La Jolla, CA-based company is now aiming to raise $100 million to advance its investigational cancer and rare disease drugs.

—Messenger RNA medicines developer CureVac filed its plans for a US stock listing. The Germany-based company plans to use some of the IPO cash to support development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

—UK-based F-star Therapeutics is merging with Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SBPH), a deal that brings it a public stock listing and the Hopkinton, MA-based biotech’s early-stage cancer and inflammatory disease compounds. Earlier this year, Spring Bank stopped its hepatitis B program following a patient death in a Phase 2 study.


Brexucabtagene autoleucel (Tecartus) won FDA approval, the first cell therapy to pass the regulatory bar for mantle cell lymphoma. The decision gives its maker, Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), a second CAR-T drug to sell on the market.

—The FDA is continuing its clinical hold on tests of a Solid Bio (NASDAQ: SLDB) gene therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The regulator placed the  hold last November after patients in the study developed complications.

—AbbVie’s migraine prevention pill atogepant met the goals of a Phase 3 study, and the North Chicago, IL-based company says it plans to submit the drug for regulatory review in the US and other countries.

—Nearly three months after the FDA declined to review multiple myeloma cell therapy candidate idecabtagene vicleucel, Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) and Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) resubmitted their application this week.

—President Trump signed but did not release four executive orders intended to cut drug prices. The orders drew a cold reception from the pharmaceutical industry, which refused to send any representatives to a scheduled White House meeting, according to Politico.

—-Genentech is laying off 474 workers, a move that the Roche subsidiary says is part of a strategy shift and is unrelated to COVID-19. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.


—Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX) made a surprise choice in their selection of messenger RNA vaccine candidate to advance to a Phase 2/3 test in COVID-19.

—Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) began a Phase 3 clinical trial for its COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273. The company also published encouraging data from a challenge study in vaccinated monkeys.

—Tocilizumab, a Roche drug approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis, failed a Phase 3 study testing it in COVID-19 patients who have developed pneuomonia.

—The US government’s Operation Warp Speed agreed to pay Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) up to $2.1 billion for the development, testing, and manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine. The deal secures the delivery of 100 million doses and gives the government the option to get 500 million more.


Avidity Biosciences named Jae Kim chief medical officer … Arcutis Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ: ARQT) tapped Patrick Burnett as chief medical officer … Dagmar Rosa-Bjorkeson joined Mesoblast (NASDAQ: MESO) as chief operating officer … Merus (NASDAQ: MRUS) appointed Andrew Joe to serve as chief medical officer … OncoSec (NASDAQ: ONCS) promoted Kellie Malloy Foerter to chief operating officer … La Jolla Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: LJPC) appointed Larry Edwards president and CEO … Gad Berdugo was named chief business officer of Editas Medicine (NASDAQ: EDIT) … Alentis Therapeutics tapped Roberto Iacone for CEO … Engrail Therapeutics appointed Kimberly Vanover to serve as chief science officer … Annexon Biosciences (NASDAQ: ANNX) tapped Michael Overdorf as chief business officer … and Synlogic (NASDAQ: SYBX) promoted Antoine Awad to chief operating officer.

Sarah de Crescenzo contributed to this report. 

Photo by Flickr user _dChris via a Creative Commons license


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