Record quarter for UK biotech as £1bn is raised

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UK biotech companies raised more than £1 billion in equity finance between June and August 2020, the highest quarter for investments in the sector on record, new data has revealed.

With £1.9 billion raised to date this year, 2020 is on target to be the best year ever recorded for this rapidly expanding sector.

The new report, from the BioIndustry Association (BIA) and Clarivate, shows that £119 million was raised through the year’s first Initial Public Offering, showing continued US appetite for UK biotechs on NASDAQ.

£282 million was raised through Venture Capital, including a return to pre-COVID 19 levels of seed and early-stage VC deals.

£601 million was raised through other public financings on both London and New York exchanges as biotech share prices continue to perform well on both sides of the Atlantic.

The strong investment picture has been matched by rising share prices. UK biotech was outperforming the broader market before COVID-19 hit, since then its relative performance has been stronger still and there have been many new investors entering the sector on the London Stock Exchange.

The long-term returns (10 years) of biotech have outperformed other sectors, including pharmaceuticals and tech, in both venture capital and public markets.

“In a year where COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to the global economy it is fantastic to see the strong investment picture for UK biotech continue to gather pace,” said Steve Bates, Chief Executive of the BIA.

“During the pandemic, UK biotech has shown its strategic value and received great interest from UK based investors, with many investing in the sector for the first time. This could be transformative for patients and the economy, and for shareholders, when combined with the global money we already attract – large pharma, US and Chinese venture capitalists are already aware of the vast opportunities UK biotech presents.

“This strong performance is testimony to the long-term support for life sciences delivered by successive government’s industrial strategies, which have identified the sector as a key engine for economic growth. UK institutional and private investors cannot continue to miss out on this rich source of value creation.

“By building expertise in this sector, a virtuous revolving door can be created where UK institutional and retail investors insightfully support growth opportunities over the medium to longer term, see the returns, and keep coming back for more.”

Moderna regains rights to RSV vaccine from Merck

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Moderna has regained all rights to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine (mRNA-1172) from Merck, including rights to develop RSV vaccines for adult populations.

mRNA-1172, which uses a Merck lipid nanoparticle for delivery, entered Phase 1 development in 2019.

As per the agreement, Merck will complete the Phase 1 study and transition the program to Moderna.

Moderna has now consolidated all global commercial rights to all development candidates in its core prophylactic vaccines modality.

Among its RSV candidates, Merck decided to focus its efforts on RSV infections through its antibody program that is currently in Phase 2 development.

Separately, Moderna also announced the initiation of dosing in the Phase 1 study of its solely owned RSV vaccine candidate (mRNA-1345).

This Phase 1 study includes initial dosing in adults, followed by age de-escalation into children. T

The company previously announced its intent to advance mRNA-1345 in children in combination with mRNA-1653, a vaccine against two other pediatric respiratory viruses (hMPV, PIV3) which is currently in its own age de-escalation study.

With this announcement, Moderna will have the right to also advance RSV vaccines in adults, either alone or in combination with other respiratory virus vaccines.

Moderna’s mRNA-1345 vaccine uses its proprietary lipid nanoparticle delivery technology also used in the Company’s COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273) and CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647).

Moderna and Merck will continue their ongoing collaboration in cancer vaccines, originally announced in 2016.

Takeda & Arrowhead to co-develop RNAi therapy for AATLD

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Takeda and Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals will collaborate to develop ARO-AAT, a Phase 2 investigational RNA interference (RNAi) therapy in development to treat alpha-1 antitrypsin-associated liver disease (AATLD).

ARO-AAT is a potential first-in-class therapy designed to reduce the production of mutant alpha-1 antitrypsin protein, the cause of AATLD progression.

If approved, ARO-AAT will be co-commercialised in the United States under a 50/50 profit-sharing structure.

Outside the US, Takeda will lead the global commercialization strategy and receive an exclusive license to commercialize ARO-AAT with Arrowhead eligible to receive tiered royalties of 20-25% on net sales.

Arrowhead will receive an upfront payment of $300 million and is eligible to receive potential development, regulatory and commercial milestones up to $740 million.

Closing of the transaction is contingent on completion of review under antitrust laws, including the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 in the US.