With all the noise this year about IPOs in our little corner of the world, it’s been easy to forget that most biotechs out there are scrambling for any source of cash they can lay hands on. Assurances aside that traditional biotech VC is making relative bank, the overall pool of traditional venture capital available to invest will continue to dwindle, as respondents in START-UP’s 3rd annual life science VC survey were quite adamant about.
(The survey is now available, by the way.)
This week we got a taste of the post-VC world; or at least, a reminder of the various types of alternative funding out there for health care and biotech that, in a few years, could replace a significant chunk of traditional venture and interrupt for good the boom-and-bust cycle.
First, the elephant in the room: Google announced it would fund a new health care company, Calico, dedicated to anti-aging. The search-and-so-much-more giant is clearly obsessed with health, and doing something about the drastic – dare we say “tragic” – flaws in the care system. Our correspondent Paul Bonanos did a great job delving into Google Ventures’ health care investment strategy in this feature earlier this year, and we recommend reading it (non-subscribers can sign up for a free trial) as background to what might be going on with Calico.
Fly-on-wall fantasy: Page: How do we increase Google searches over a person's lifetime? Brin: What if we just increased the lifetime?
— Josh Berlin (@BioPharmaJosh) September 18, 2013
Paul also reminds us that the Googlers aren’t the only tech-heads with health-care ambitions: Peter Thiel, Yuri Milner and others are shifting their fortunes in small measures. And bully for them; we could certainly use fresh minds and tech-savvy strategies (Tech Tonics?), what with the data-intensive nature of health care these days.
But Silicon Valley’s libertarian streak is often at odds philosophically with another important source of biotech funding that we were reminded of this week. The National Institutes of Health announced the recipients of $45 million from the funds dedicated in 2012 to Alzheimer’s research. Those funds aren’t going directly to biotech companies, but the trials and other efforts they’re backing are much needed in an area that seems practically abandoned by industry – at least in proportion to the level of the dire medical need Alzheimer’s represents. So, indirectly, one can only hope the NIH funding can move the needle enough for biopharma, big and small, to see clearer pathways that deserve cash outlays from the private sector, as well.
Finally, we’re about to see a small but significant step toward equity crowdfunding. Title II of the JOBS Act, which loosens the rules for general solicitation of accredited investors, takes effect next week. It’s not quite crowdfunding nirvana – or the apocalypse, depending on your viewpoint – because we’re still a ways away from Mom and Pop, Joe Sixpack, and the Joneses being able to participate. (That’s Title III.) But all manner of folks are lined up, ready to provide investment platforms for those with an eye on biotech, as our colleagues have written about here.
If you happen to be at PSA: The Pharmaceutical Strategy Conference in New York next week, you can ask Greg Simon, who’s running the equity crowdfunding site Polliwogg, all about the latest developments. (Or you can catch him on the panel “Funding Biotech: New Ways To Create Value.”)
Or, if you hate going anywhere near New York because you’re convinced it’s about to be overrun by giant drooling sea-dragon spiders, well, the people we write about have products that can help you. Until then, relax in the safety of your home or office, avoid the crowds (and their funds), and enjoy the latest edition of….
Civitas Therapeutics: From the ashes of the inhaled insulin efforts of the previous decade comes Civitas, which said September 11 it has raised a $38 million Series B financing to fund late-stage development of the company’s lead program, CVT-301, an inhaled formulation of levodopa (L-dopa) to treat debilitating motor fluctuations – known as “off episodes” -- associated with Parkinson’s disease. Civitas spun out of Alkermes' pulmonary business in 2010, then the latest casualty in Big Pharma’s complete retreat from several efforts to create inhaled insulin products. But Longitude Capital and Canaan Partners raised $20 million for a Series A, and in early 2011 new CEO Glenn Batchelder told FOTF he hoped to bring a Parkinson’s-related treatment to clinical proof of concept by the end of 2012. (Why an inhaled L-dopa for Parkinson’s? During acute “off periods,” characterized by halting or frozen movement, the Civitas technology aims to deliver drug even when it might be difficult for patients to draw a sustained breath.) CVT-301 is being positioned as an adjunct therapy to oral L-dopa. Bay City Capital led the round and was joined by crossover hedge fund RA Capital, an undisclosed blue chip public investment firm, and all returning shareholders including Alkermes, Canaan Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners, and Longitude Capital. Partners from Bay City and RA Capital joined the company’s board. Civitas will also explore pipeline expansion with its ARCUS delivery platform for other diseases where what the company defines as a “large, precise” dose delivered from an inhalation device “would provide a significant clinical advantage.” – A.L.
DRI Capital: The Toronto health care royalty investor said September 9 it has raised a new $1.45 billion fund, its third following $240 million and $926 million vehicles, raised in 2006 and 2010 respectively. Investments under the first two funds followed a fairly straightforward set of criteria: drugs with FDA or EMA approval that offer strong efficacy and an attractive pharmacoeconomic profile and that are used to treat very serious, chronic conditions, DRI President and CEO Behzad Khosrowshahi told our “Pink Sheet” colleagues. For the third fund, however, DRI also plans to consider investments in Phase III assets and the higher returns that might come from higher-risk investments. It’s part of a larger but still subtle trend of royalty firms dipping toes into pre-commercial assets, even as traditional venture firms cross the other way and dabble in royalty investments. Khosrowshahi said that DRI has “a decent level of internal expertise” to evaluate pre-commercial risks. The drug royalty business has certainly attracted the capital to lure health care specialists, with DRI joined by competitors such as Capital Royalty L.P., Orbimed Advisors LLC and Healthcare Royalty Partners. Earlier this year, Capital Royalty raised more than $1 billion for its second fund, announcing a revised strategy under which it would emphasize debt instrument financing that would offer its deal partners a more concrete sense of the cost of capital. -- Joseph Haas
Five Prime Therapeutics: The protein therapeutic company notched on September 18 the first biotech IPO of the fall season. More than a dozen are waiting in registration, and an unknown number are also still under wraps with confidential filings. Five Prime raised $62 million by selling 4.8 million shares at $13 each, right within its projected range of $12 to $14 a share. Insiders bought about 408,000 shares. Five Prime was founded in 2001 and built at a time when VCs were more willing to wait for long-term payoffs for platforms. Five Prime’s platform consists in part of a library of 5,600 extracellular proteins to yield novel targets, and biotech or pharma partners have signed on with more than $220 million in partnership or licensing money. Its most advanced candidate FP-1039 is a selective FGF inhibitor that Five Prime and its partner GlaxoSmithKline put into a Phase Ib trial in July. “If you were to tell a VC, ‘Give me four or five years and a chunk of money to develop this kind of platform,’ it might be a tough sell these days,” Five Prime VP of Biology Brian Wong told our sister publication START-UP earlier this year. Befitting a company that’s taken 12 years to reach the public markets, the pre-IPO ownership was spread rather widely. Only Pfizer had more than a 10% stake, with 13.7%. Venture or priate equity groups Advanced Technology Ventures, Domain Associates, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, HealthCap, Versant Ventures – from the firm’s very first fund -- and Texas Pacific Group all owned 9%. Founder and CEO Rusty Williams owned 6.8%. Jefferies led the underwriting team, which has the option to sell an additional 720,000 shares. – Alex Lash
Cubist Pharmaceuticals: The antibiotic maker said September 16 it bought $25 million in Series A preferred stock from Optimer Pharmaceuticals, a sale that was negotiated this summer as part of Cubist’s agreement to buy Optimer. That acquisition, not yet consummated, hasn’t gone over well with Optimer shareholders, who have filed suit to stop it because Optimer shares have actually been climbing since the company dumped its CEO and put itself up for sale in February. The $10.75-per-share offer, or $535 million, was at a 19% discount to Optimer’s July 30 closing price. Shareholders could earn more post-acquisition if Cubist hits sales milestones with Optimer’s Clostridium difficile treatment Dificid (fidaxomicin), a product it has been selling in the U.S. since 2011, when it signed an exclusive co-promotion deal with Optimer. The $25 million stock sale is essentially a bridge to help Optimer pay the bills – or as a Cubist spokeswoman told FOTF, “to address Optimer’s near-term cash needs” -- until the merger takes effect. The purchase repeats quarterly, so if the deal hasn’t closed in three months, Cubist will pay another $25 million, and another $25 million three months after that. As of June 30, Optimer had $73 million in cash on hand, down from $119 million at the end of 2012. Seeing how the deal was unusual for its discounted price, there certainly is a chance that the lawsuit will have legs and hold matters up for some time. The Cubist spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit. – A.L. and Jessica Merrill
All The Rest: myoscience, developing Focused Cold Therapy devices for peripheral nerve conditions, closed on a $25M Series E round…Index Ventures is initially investing $10M into Egalet to support work on abuse-deterring pain meds, with the option for another $10M…Emmaus Life Sciences raised $7.5M to complete Phase III studies for its sickle cell candidate…to pay for its acquisition of CNS assets from Merck, Cerecor got $6.8M in Series A-1 financing…Taglich Brothers led a $3.2M round for screening and assay development services company Caldera Pharmaceuticals…Sanofi was an investor on Hadasit Bio-Holdings-portfolio company KAHR Medical’s $2.5M fundraise…BioMotiv and the NYU Innovation Fund launched autoimmune start-up Orca Pharmaceuticals…KV Pharmaceutical emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, simultaneously closing on a $100M credit facility and $275M rights offering…Cell Therapeutics sold $15M in 15k Series 18 convertible preferred shares…Taiwanese biotech Amaran provided half of the $10M private investment in Stellar Biotechnologies…A $10M PIPE by NanoViricides gives the company a total of $22M in cash for the next two years to fund its FluCide and DengueCide candidates…A day after revealing positive outcomes in its Phase II glioblastoma multiforme vaccine study, Agenus raised $6.5M in an at-the-market registered direct offering…injectables developer Sagent Pharmaceuticals closed on a $75M FOPO…to continue work on ZFP Therapeutic candidates, Sangamo BioSciences completed a $64.5M secondary offering…Galena Biopharma’s $35M FOPO will help to commercialize its first product, Abstral…electroporation drug delivery company OncoSec publicly raised $12M…protein therapeutics company Acceleron priced its IPO at the top end of its range to gross $83.7M...glaucoma drug developer Aerie Pharmaceuticals filed for its IPO, while Bind Therapeutics, Ophthotech, and Enzymotec set terms for their offerings…Cubist offered $800M in two series of convertible senior unsecured notes…therapeutic protein maker Protalix BioTherapeutics closed on $69M in 4.5% convertible notes due in 2018…ProMetic Life Sciences’ $Cdn10M debt financing will help put its plasma purification facility into operations for manufacturing plasma-derived orphan drugs…Benu BioPharma established Benu BioVentures for investments in preclinical to proof-of-concept candidates…and Daiichi Sankyo teamed up with Mitsubishi UFJ Capital to launch a new fund for start-up creation; Daiichi gets rights to buy the companies and IP. -- Amanda Micklus
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