Friday, April 05, 2013

Uneasy Lies The Head That Wears a Financings of the Fortnight Crown

Compared to other types of financing, royalty-based deals in the biopharma world are rare. That’s because a company needs products with future revenue to parlay into a near-term lump sum, and the relative few companies that have such products often don’t need the immediate cash or can get it other ways.

So when a royalty deal – or a debt deal using product royalties as collateral – crops up, we take notice. And they seem to be cropping up more often. Just our imaginations? Not according to Elsevier’s Strategic Transactions database, which offered up ten deals in 2012, the most in any of the past ten years. 2011 was a close second with 9 deals, and with three more this year, 22 of the 47 we found in the past ten years are of recent vintage. (These numbers reflect only the publicly disclosed deals; there are certainly more, as investors in this space often keep activities out of the spotlight.)

In dollar terms, the total since the start of 2003 is $5.7 billion. The last two years and change have seen $2.7 billion worth of deals, a proportion akin to the deal flow.

The richest deal in recent years is Royalty Pharma’s $761 million purchase of the earn-out rights from the shareholders of Fumapharm, the German firm that sold to Biogen Idec in 2006. The deal could end up extra sweet for Royalty, now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the main product in the Fumapharm dossier, the oral multiple sclerosis treatment BG-12, renamed Tecfidera.

Another near-blockbuster was Royalty’s $609 million purchase of DPP-IV rights from Astellas Pharma’s Prosidion division. A bit farther down the pay scale, but still significant, were Dendreon’s sale of Victrelis royalties to CPPIB Credit Investments for $125 million, and Nektar Therapeutics$124 million deal with an offshoot of Royalty Pharma for its royalties to Mircera and Cimzia, both of which were formulated with Nektar’s pegylation technology.

Now add one more to the list. This fortnight, weight-loss drug maker Vivus used royalties of its Qsymia, weighed down so far by slow sales, as collateral to borrow up to $110 million. (We describe the deal below in our roundup.) And of course, in what could be the ne plus ultra of all royalty deals, Royalty Pharma (who else?) is dangling $6.6 billion to buy Elan, which after its major divestments is basically a holding company for royalties from multiple sclerosis treatment Tysabri. Elan has resisted so far, instead promising shareholders it will pay out a dividend based on the Tysabri stream. This week an Irish regulatory panel gave Royalty a May deadline to firm up its offer.

The dance began in late February soon after Biogen Idec bought out Elan’s share of the drug, paying Elan $3.2 billion plus the promise of tiered sales royalties. Whether Royalty Pharma succeeds in its hostile buyout is more a matter for our Deals of the Week compatriots, but it’s our duty to note that Royalty and its brethren have plenty more to spend. Royalty raised $600 million in debt in 2012 to put toward investments. Its previous debt raise included $850 million to give back to shareholders. Healthcare Royalty Partners, which dropped the "Cowen" from its name in December, raised a $1 billion fund in early 2012.

Royalty funds are to venture capital what bonds are to stocks: a lower-risk, lower-return investment, and often built with complex structures that purposely limit both parties' risk. They're certainly not going to replace a big chunk of venture capital, because they can't fund companies without current or near-future revenue streams. But as the numbers show, they're providing billions of dollars of capital to an industry that can always use a few extra pennies.

It's no jest. Whether you’re biotech royalty or an indentured serf, you’re always welcome in the biweekly court of…

Vivus: Initial sales of the Vivus weight-loss drug Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) have been slow, so the company fortified its balance sheet with $50 million in new debt. The "synthetic capped royalty financing" from Pharmakon Advisors, announced March 26, allows Vivus to raise another $60 million in debt before the end of 2013, at a time of Vivus’ choosing. Under the terms of the arrangement, Vivus is obligated to repay the Pharmakon fund according to a schedule of pre-set payments between 2014 and 2018, or 25% of Qsymia royalties, whichever is valued lower. Analysts expect that Vivus would make quarterly payments between $7 million and $10.3 million during most of the four-year schedule, if it opts to raise the other $60 million later this year. The total repaid is likely to be about $162 million, according to analysts. Sales of Qsymia were just $2 million during the fourth quarter of 2012, its first full quarter on the market since FDA approved the drug in July 2012. Vivus had $213 million in cash and equivalents on Dec. 31, and spent $58 million on its operations during the fourth quarter. The company is seeking to modify its current Risk Evaluation & Mitigation Strategy for Qsymia, which limits sales of the drug to mail-order pharmacies; an FDA decision allowing it to sell via traditional pharmacies could come in late April or early May. – Paul Bonanos

Novira Therapeutics: The antiviral startup said March 26 it has topped off last year’s Series A with $7.5 million from Versant Ventures, matching the earlier co-lead investors and bringing the round’s total to $25 million. Novira is one of the few startups around working on treatments for Hepatitis B, its lead program, and for HIV. That, plus its pursuit of a relatively new mechanism of action – capsid assembly inhibition -- was enough to put Novira on our sister publication Start-Up’s annual A-List, which highlights the year’s most intriguing recipients of Series A money. 5am Ventures and Canaan Partners led the initial Series A investment, which came after the company spent years subsisting on angel and nonprofit funding and casting about for a way forward. The angels who nurtured the firm through its pre-Series A years also participated in the A round. Only after Lalo Flores, former head of antiviral research at Merck & Co. took over did Novira steer toward capsid assembly. It aims to file an IND for its lead HBV program by year’s end. The company's oral therapeutic candidates could potentially be used as both a monotherapy or in combination with currently used drugs. The company says the Series A money should be enough to move that initial program into Phase Ib or Phase IIa. For Versant’s contribution, the firm will place one of its new European team members, Gianni Gromo, in a board seat. Gromo is one of three Versant partners based in Basel, Switzerland and has ties to Versant’s top biopharma managing director Brad Bolzon from their days at Roche. – Alex Lash

Theraclone Sciences: Another antiviral add-on this week, with Seattle-based Theraclone bringing its Series B total to $50 million with contributions from a host of existing investors including Arch Venture Partners, Canaan Partners, MPM Capital, and Healthcare Ventures. In addition to the extra $8 million from investors, the antibody platform company also secured $6 million in debt from MidCap Financial and Silicon Valley Bank. The firm’s lead programs in the clinic are aimed at pandemic and seasonal flu, partnered with Zenyaku Kogyo, and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). It has a discovery-phase antibody partnership with Pfizer, as well, and it has worked with Scripps scientists and the International AIDS Vaccine Institute on research to identify more than a dozen “broadly neutralizing” antibodies that might eventually lead to a vaccine for HIV. Theraclone’s platform screens for antibodies from the B cells of the lucky humans who demonstrate natural resistance to particular diseases. Once called Spaltudaq, Theraclone is one of a handful of biotechs to emerge from the Seattle incubator Accelerator and has had its share of tribulations, the worst of which was the sudden death of its CEO David Fanning in 2010. – A.L.

Receptos: The San Diego biotech filed April 4 its intent to go public, joining the growing queue of life science firms with hopes of breaking through to public markets. The firm is farther along in the IPO process than it might have been in previous times, as it actually filed its S-1 confidentially in February under new securities rules ushered in by last year's JOBS Act. Its lead compound is in Phase II testing against relapsing multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Its top four shareholders, each with slightly more than 15% ownership, are Flagship Ventures, Lilly Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, and Venrock. An IPO would also benefit a much newer venture fund, Osage University Partners, which is trying to prove the worth of a new model based on schools’ participation rights that we describe in the March issue of Start-Up. Based on work that elucidates the structures of G-coupled protein receptors, Receptos spun out of the Scripps Research Institute, which has a partnership with Osage, which would send a slice of its carried interest back to Scripps if the fund succeeds. A Receptos IPO would certainly help. It has not yet set terms of the offer. Credit Suisse and Leerink Swann are leading the underwriting team. Other health care firms on file to go public include Bausch & Lomb, Chimerix, Omthera Pharmaceuticals, Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, Ambit Biosciences, and Sophiris Bio. – A.L.

All The Rest: Raising $38mm from Invesco Asset Management in the biggest venture financing of the fortnight was infirst Healthcare, founded less than a year ago to launch new consumer cough and cold and pain medicines…Through a $33mm Series E financing (concurrent with the conversion of $71mm in debt into Series E preferred stock), Revance Therapeutics aims to complete Phase III trials for RT001, a topical botulinum toxin type A for crow’s feet wrinkles…Led by two China-focused venture funds, research and diagnostics MAb firm OriGene Technologies brought in $21.3mm in its Series D round…With participation from J&J Development and Pfizer Venture, Aquinox Pharma secured $18mm in Series C financing to help advance its Phase II AQX-1125 for COPD… To support development of spec pharma Taris Biomedical’s LiRIS (Lidocaine-Releasing Intravesical System) Phase II interstitial cystitis candidate, return backers added $12.5mm to the $37.3mm the company had previously raised…Schizophrenia drug firm Reviva Pharmaceuticals received $12mm in early-stage debt and equity funding from undisclosed investors… In a Series A round, Hurel Corp. (artificial tissue constructs and microfluidic cell-based assay platforms) snagged $9.2mm from Spring Mountain Capital… Genomic data analysis start-up Bina Technologies brought in $6.25mm of a planned $8mm Series B round…In the second close of initial financing secured in November 2012 when it spun-off from InDevR, rapid virus quantification firm ViroCyt has brought the total funding to $5mm…Undisclosed equity financing secured from the Innovation & Investment Fund Gelderland (managed by PPM Oost) along with several angel backers will enable InteRNA Technologies to progress its lead candidate miR-3157 for melanoma through preclinical studies…In a private placement, public Australian company Prana Biotech issued 35.9mm new fully paid ordinary shares at a price of A$0.195, for $7.3mm in proceeds to fund further development of PBT2, now in two concurrent Phase II trials in Huntington disease and Alzheimer's disease… Through a follow-on offering of up to 165.7mm new Hong Kong-listed shares at HK$24.60, Chinese CRO Sinopharm Group could reap $515.3mm in proceeds to expand its sales network and complete additional M&As… Arca Biopharma hopes to bring in $20mm in a FOPO to fund a Phase IIb trial of Gencaro (bucindolol hydrochloride) for atrial fibrillation… With proceeds from a public offering of units, public Toronto spec pharma Trimel Pharmaceuticals hopes to fund costs related to an NDA filing and further clinical trials for its CompleoTRT bioadhesive intranasal gel technology for male hypogonadism… Eye care giant Bausch & Lomb – owned by PE firm Warburg Pincus, which acquired it and took it private in a $3.67bn 2007 buy-out – filed for an initial public offering that could raise as much as $1.5bn… Two biotechs sent ranges for IPOS, but have yet to price: Chimerix (oral antivirals) plans to sell 6.1mm shares at $13-15, while dyslipidemia therapeutics company Omthera Pharmaceuticals said it hopes to get between $12-14 through the sale of 5.8mm sharesCell Therapeutics, using proceeds from a $15mm senior secured term loan with Hercules Technology Growth Capital, hopes to advance Phase III pacritinib (for myelofibrosis) and promote recently EMA-approved non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment Pixuvri (pixantrone) in Europe…In a second debt financing by Hercules, CNS stem cell therapeutics developer Neuralstem issued the finance company 649k warrants to purchase Neuralstem stock at an exercise price of $1.08…In exchange for up to $16mm, ophthalmologic drug developer InSite Vision will sell its future royalties on bacterial eye infection medicine Besivance (besifloxacin ophthalmic suspension) to SWK Funding LLC…Cancer-focused public Australian biotech Prima Biomed hopes to raise $15.6mm in a rights offering of up to 150mm new fully paid ordinary shares. - Maureen Riordan

Royally weird photo courtesy of flickrer simononly.

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