Out of 922 biopharma financings so far in 2020, nearly a quarter of them – 211 – were done by companies working on a COVID-19 therapeutic or vaccine.
More strikingly, however, the $27.8 billion raised by those pandemic-focused firms represents about 40% of the $71.8 billion total collected through the end of July. That amount is the highest BioWorld has ever tracked. The second highest amount of $68.4 billion was recorded for the entire year of 2015.
And not only has a significant amount of money through financings funneled to COVID-19 efforts, but so has 80% of the $10.45 billion brought into the biopharma industry through nonprofit collaborations and grants.
Sanofi, Beigene billion-dollar financings
A large chunk of the money raised by developers of COVID-19 candidates came through Sanofi SA’s $6.07 billion follow-on offering and its $5.047 billion sale of 9.8 million shares of Regeneron Inc., both of which occurred in May. Beigene Inc. also raised $2.08 billion in July through a direct offering, making it the largest offering of its kind. The financing included an Amgen Inc. investment of $421 million to maintain its 20.3% pro rata ownership.
Some Sanofi products studied as potential treatments for COVID-19 include Lovenox and SAR-443122, as well as Plaquenil, better known lately as hydroxychloroquine, which failed to show benefit in an Oxford University study. Sanofi also has studied Kevzara (sarilumab), but it did not meet the primary and key secondary endpoints in a Regeneron-led COVID-19 trial in the U.S., which was halted. It remains in an ongoing ex-U.S. trial led by Sanofi. The trial is focused on severe and critical patients that are hospitalized, and it is using a different dosing regimen than the U.S. trial.
In collaboration with Denali Therapeutics Inc., Sanofi is developing SAR-443122, or DNL-758, an RIPK1 inhibitor, and began dosing in late July in a phase Ib study in hospitalized adults with severe COVID-19 lung disease. Also, blood-thinning drug Lovenox (enoxaparin) is in multiple clinical trials as COVID-19 infections can lead to an increase in blood clots.
At the end of July, Sanofi and partner Glaxosmithkline plc learned they would receive up to $2.1 billion from the U.S. government through Operation Warp Speed (OWS) to develop and deliver an initial 100 million doses of a recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to enter a phase I/II trial in September and a phase III by year-end. It is the largest deal so far through OWS, which has awarded contracts worth more than $8 billion. Just prior to that deal, the two companies agreed to provide the U.K. government with 60 million doses.
Paris-based Sanofi also is studying an mRNA vaccine in collaboration with Translate Bio Inc., and the two expanded a vaccines agreement in June adding $1.4 billion in value.
Beigene began working with Atreca Inc. and IGM Biosciences Inc. in April on IgM and IgA antibodies to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It also is studying zanubrutinib in a phase II trial in the U.S. for COVID-19 disease and pulmonary distress.
Outside of its COVID-19 work, the company, with headquarters in Beijing, China, and Cambridge, Mass., signed in July a $540 million pact with Assembly Biosciences Inc. focused on three clinical-stage therapies for chronic hepatitis B virus.
Top raises from Biogen, Moderna, SK, Biontech
Other large financings by those focused on COVID-19 are follow-ons by Biogen Inc., which raised $1.5 billion in April, and Moderna Inc., which raised $1.34 billion in May, as well as $500 million in February. Biogen is working on vaccines and treatments with academia, while Moderna recently moved its vaccine, mRNA-1273, into a phase III trial.
Biogen finalized an agreement in late May with Vir Biotechnology Inc. on development and manufacturing of VIR-7831 and VIR-7832, which are both based on the S309 antibody. Vir had its own $345 million follow-on offering in July.
Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen also is part of a consortium that includes the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Partners Healthcare, to build and share a COVID-19 biobank to help in the search of vaccines and treatments.
But the company is busy outside of COVID-19 work as well. On Thursday, Biogen announced a $2.15 billion development and commercialization deal with South San Francisco-based Denali for leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 inhibitors for Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to moving into phase III with mRNA-1273, Moderna also received an additional $472 million from the U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), bringing total funding to $955 million. Preclinical data of the vaccine from a nonhuman primate study indicated in July that it induced antibody levels exceeding those in human convalescent-phase serum.
SK Biopharmaceuticals Co. Ltd. completed a $799 million Korean IPO in July, and SK Chemical’s vaccines unit, SK Bioscience Co. Ltd., received a $3.6 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant in May to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The companies operate separately, but both fall under the SK Group umbrella.
PTC Therapeutics Inc., which is developing phase II/III candidate PTC-299, raised $650 million by monetizing a portion of spinal muscular atrophy drug risdiplam’s royalty stream with Royalty Pharma plc.
Biontech SE, developer with Pfizer Inc. of the phase II/III vaccine candidate BNT-162, raised $511.5 million through a July follow-on offering, as well as $250 million through a private investment in June from Temasek Holdings and other accredited investors. The FDA granted fast track designation to two of the four BNT-162 candidates and the U.K. government purchased 30 million doses of the pending vaccine, with the company pursuing regulatory access as early as October. Later in July, Biontech and Pfizer received a $1.95 billion contract through OWS involving 100 million doses and an option for 500 million more doses. The phase II/III trial began the last week of July with up to 30,000 participants.
Other top financings include $404.2 million in January and $388.9 million in May for Apellis Pharmaceuticals Inc., developer of C3 inhibitor APL-9, which moved in May into a phase I trial with COVID-19 patients with respiratory failure. And Allovir Inc. raised $317.7 million through an IPO in July. IPOs have hit records of their own in 2020, with the $12.2 billion raised so far representing the highest amount ever for any year within BioWorld’s database, and that is with five months to go. Cambridge, Mass.-based Allovir is working on T-cell therapies for COVID-19 with Baylor College of Medicine.
Bulk of money followed pandemic declaration
About 15 financings by COVID-19 developers either did not disclose terms or they involved money tied to milestones or drawdowns and were not included in the total. Of the remaining 196 with disclosed and counted funds, 66 brought in $3.48 billion prior to March 11, the date the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Following that declaration, there have been 130 financings by developers of SARS-CoV-2 therapeutics and vaccines, raising $24.3 billion total through the end of July.
The figures indicate that 87% of the money flowed into biopharma companies after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.