Money on the Move: Marinus, Evotec, Ventyx and more (Updated)


This week's money flowed into various therapeutic areas like cancer and inflammatory disorders, while government and philanthropic grants fund the fight against infectious diseases, the plague and chemical warfare. 

BARDA Exercises First Option in Marinus Cost-Share

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has exercised its first contract option, valued at around $12.3 million, Marinus Pharmaceuticals announced Thursday.

The funds will help to bring onshore the manufacturing for ganaxolone active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), used in the treatment of refractory status epilepticus (RSE). The onshoring of this manufacturing process can also drive down API supply costs by nearly 30%, Marinus stated.

The company is currently assessing ganaxolone for RSE in a Phase 3 clinical trial. It is currently approved in the United States as ZTALMY for the treatment of seizures associated with CDKL5 deficiency disorder in patients two years and older. 

Marinus CEO Scott Braunstein, M.D. noted the company "looks forward to continued collaboration with BARDA to expand the government’s medical countermeasure capabilities in the event of a chemical attack." 

Thursday’s first contact option is part of an ongoing cost-share agreement between Marinus and BARDA under a $51-million contract awarded in 2020. A previously approved base-funding period has already provided Marinus with $21 million, and the company remains eligible to up to $18 million across two additional option periods.

ImmunoScape Seeks Out Cancer-Specific TCR Candidates with $14M in Financing

With its latest financing round closing Tuesday, preclinical biotech firm ImmunoScape now has $14 million in fresh funding to pump into its proprietary Deep Immunomics platform.

By combining computational biology and machine learning, Deep Immunomics can screen tens of millions of T cells from hundreds of cancer patients in hopes of identifying rare and clinically relevant targets and potential candidates. 

The San Diego, CA-based company has extensively validated this approach and is leveraging Deep Immunomics to build a robust pipeline of cancer candidates. ImmunoScape's global headquarters is located in Singapore.

The funds will also help the company ramp up its discovery and development programs and advance its most promising assets to the clinic. During the financing round, which Anzu Partners led, ImmunoScape gained a new backer in Amgen Ventures and the Singapore-based EDBI.

DoD Puts Nearly $50M in Evotec to Prepare for the Plague

Evotec announced Tuesday that its Seattle-based subsidiary, Just - Evotec Biologics, has signed a $49.9-million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a monoclonal antibody-based drug for plague. 

Under the agreement, the company will be responsible for discovering and developing the drug prototype, from sequence discovery until its first-in-human Phase I study. Evotec is also expected to provide preclinical and clinical capabilities for the approval of prophylactic monoclonal antibodies.

Caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, plague is usually transmitted to humans through rodents and fleas. Though antibiotics are generally effective at curing it, plague can still progress to severe illness or death if left unchecked. Plague is classified as a target of interest under the DoD's Accelerated Antibodies Program.

Rockefeller Foundation Commits $15M to Fight AIDS, TB, Malaria

On Monday, the Rockefeller Foundation pledged $15 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The money will go into a Laboratory Systems Strengthening Catalytic Fund, which hopes to help establish public health laboratories across low- and middle-income countries.

The Global Fund is holding its seventh replenishment conference Wednesday, and this year it aims to raise $18 billion for its campaign against these infectious diseases and to safeguard its progress over the years amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The proceeds will also help the Global Fund run several projects through 2025.

In 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation had given another $15 million to the Global Fund's Data Science Catalytic Fund, bolstering community health information systems in LMICs.

Ventyx Posts Stock for Sale for $176M

Clinical-stage Ventyx Biosciences announced that it is selling 5,350,000 shares of its common stock at a price of $33.0 per share to accredited investors and qualified institutional buyers. The company expects gross proceeds of $176.6 million before deducting agent fees, among other expenses.

Net proceeds from the stock purchase agreement will help the California biopharma to finance the clinical development of its assets VTX958, VTX002, VTX2735 and VTX3232. Money will also go into Ventyx's preclinical programs and other research activities and serve as general working capital and other such purposes. 

The company's cash runways are led by San Francisco, CA-based investment firm Redmile Group. The private placement closed Tuesday and is expected to pave Ventyx's cash runway into 2025.

Naveris Wins $51M in Series A

Following the $33.4-million expansion of its Series A financing round, commercial-stage company Naveris, Inc. now has $51 million, which it will use to push the commercialization of its flagship product NavDx.

Designed to detect HPV-related cancers early, NavDx is a blood test that uses Naveris' proprietary DNA fragmentomics technology, which can distinguish between viral DNA that comes from cancers versus those that are brought about by infections. More than 25 medical institutions have partnered with Naveris to use and investigate its platform. The company is also working with other companies to develop immunotherapies for cancers arising from HPV.

The funding round was led by Gurnet Point Capital. TechU Ventures and BrightEdge, the venture capital arm of the American Cancer Society, participated.

Theravance Kicks Off $250M Capital Return Program

Through a capital return program approved Monday by its Board of Directors, Theravance Biopharma, Inc. seeks to buy back all of GSK's equity stake in the company. 

Currently, the pharma giant holds 9.6 million Theravance shares, priced at $9.75 per share. This agreement closed Tuesday. 

Theravance is also planning to hold a Dutch auction tender offer in order to buy around $95 million of its ordinary shares. After that, the company is eyeing to enter an open market stock repurchase plan to purchase approximately $60 million of its ordinary shares. The company expects to complete the latter program by the end of 2023.

RIGImmune Buys Subintro

RNA immunotherapeutics company RIGImmune acquired Subintro last week, hoping to add the latter's antiviral therapeutics candidates to its own pipeline. The newly combined companies will focus on intranasal drug delivery, boosting the mucosa's innate and antiviral responses.

RIGImmune is working on therapeutic stemloop RNA molecules that activate the innate immune sensor RIG-I. The company hopes this approach will demonstrate strong pan-virus activity and be viable for the prophylaxis of viral respiratory diseases and cancers. Its lead candidate is called RIG-101.

Meanwhile, Subintro has a healthy array of antivirals for the treatment of respiratory diseases triggered by RNA viruses, such as influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus.

Concurrent with the acquisition, RIGImmune has also announced that the investment firm F-Prime capital is throwing its support behind the company.

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