Investors have grown accustomed to hearing news of major announcements during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference week. However, with no headline catalyst and the absence of any major M&A deals, the event turned out to be unusually muted. Investors were left to filter company presentations for their views on the coming 12 months. Guidance from big pharma was generally positive, with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. CEO Giovanni Caforio, for example, kicking off this year's meeting telling attendees he intends to plunge ahead with "the agility and speed of a biotech company." BMS, now that it has closed the acquisition of Celgene Corp., has eight product launches planned in the next 24 months, he said, targeting solid tumors, hematology and immunology indications.


Incyte Corp. has finalized a deal in which it will pay Planegg, Germany-based Morphosys AG $750 million up front, invest $150 million in its stock and reserve $1.1 billion for milestones in return for a 50% interest in U.S. rights to the CD19-targeting antibody tafasitamab (MOR-208) and for 100% of the rights in all other territories.

Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. entered a global diagnostic agreement with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, to utilize its next-generation sequencing-based Clonoseq assay to assess minimal residual disease status in response to venetoclax, a selective B-cell lymphoma-2 inhibitor, in the registrational phase III Cristallo study for the treatment of newly diagnosed people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), plus additional future venetoclax studies in CLL.

Adaptimmune plc entered an alliance worth up to $897.5 million with Astellas Pharma Inc. to co-develop and co-commercialize stem cell-based allogeneic CAR T and T-cell receptor therapies. The company receives a $50 million up-front payment and could receive up to $73.75 million in development milestones for up to three products it co-develops with Astellas.

Allogene Therapeutics Inc. and Springworks Therapeutics Inc. entered a clinical trial collaboration agreement that will cover the evaluation of ALLO-715, an investigational anti-B-cell maturation antigen AlloCAR T therapy, in combination with Springworks’ investigational gamma secretase inhibitor, nirogacestat, in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

Biomotiv LLC and Atomwise Inc. said they will form co-owned, joint development companies that will integrate Atomwise’s artificial intelligence technology and Biomotiv’s expertise in preclinical and clinical development to translate academic and early stage research into small-molecule therapies.

Biontech SE is acquiring Neon Therapeutics Inc., a neoantigen-based T-cell therapy specialist, in an all-stock transaction valued at about $67 million. The deal values Neon's shares (NASDAQ:NTGN) at $2.18 each – far from their $16 per share IPO debut in June 2018.

Editas Medicine Inc. and Sandhill Therapeutics Inc. agreed on a strategic research collaboration, license and option agreement to combine their genome editing and cell therapy technologies to discover, develop and manufacture allogeneic engineered natural killer cells and non-alpha beta T-cell medicines to treat cancer.

Fauna Bio Inc., which has developed a hibernation biobank, has entered a research collaboration with Novo Nordisk A/S to find new therapies for obesity by investigating molecules and pathways that increase metabolic rate in hibernating mammals.

Financial transactions

I-Mab Biopharma Co. Ltd. became the first IPO out of the gate this year, pricing its offering of about 7.4 million American depositary shares at $14 each, within the planned range of $12 at the low end and $15 at the high.

Public financing: Apellis Pharmaceuticals Inc. closed its public offering for gross proceeds of about $404.2 million; Matinas Biopharma Holdings Inc. closed its public offering for gross proceeds of about $50 million; Mirati Therapeutics Inc. closed its public offering for proceeds totaling about $345 million; Xbiotech Inc. has started a “modified Dutch auction” tender offer to purchase up to $420 million of its common shares at a price not less than $30 nor greater than $33 per common share.

Private financing: Eqrx Inc., a new venture created to advance fast-follower drugs, launched with $200 million in series A financing. Codagenix Inc. closed a $20 million series B investment round led by Adjuvant Capital; Generation Bio Co. closed a $110 million series C financing; Kyverna Therapeutics Inc. raised $25 million in a series A investment from Vida Ventures and Westlake Village Biopartners; Tyra Biosciences Inc. completed a series A financing round of $50 million

Frazier Healthcare Partners closed Frazier Life Sciences X LP, the company’s third fund, by exceeding its target with more than $617 million in capital commitments in an oversubscribed fundraiser.

Word on the Street: BioWorld's favorite quotes of the week

It's "the worst political dilemma that the industry has every faced. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, it will probably still be the Republican's majority in the Senate that protects our industry from the most horrible of the proposals out there."
Jim Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, told luncheon attendees during the Biotech Showcase meeting in San Francisco

“There are different nomenclatures for describing the number of bytes for data storage. Zebi is 10 to the 60th byte. One hundred to the 100th is google, which was taken. The yotta byte [1,0008 bytes], well, it just didn’t work as a name.”
Zebiai Therapeutics Inc. CEO, Rick Wagner, on the naming of his new machine learning company

“They’re a new and emerging class of small molecules, and we really don’t know how they work. So, we’re really excited to use our assay and our machine learning applied to this drug class for a variety of different cancer types.”
Joey Azofeifa, CEO, Arpeggio Biosciences Inc., which raised $3.2 million in seed funding to further develop its nascent RNA sequencing drug screen

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