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19 May, 2021 - 21:28 By Tony Quested

East of England bio deals from start of 2021 top $50 billion

East of England BioMedTech companies have been involved in deals worth more than $50 billion in the first five months of 2021, raised in style and at a fair clip.

Liquid biopsy specialist Inivata became the third major Cambridge biotech to be acquired in this window when NASDAQ powerhouse NeoGenomics Inc exercised its right to purchase the whole of the company earlier this month.

Having made a $25 million minority investment in May 2020, Florida-based NeoGenomics has taken up a fixed price option to buy the remainder for a further $390m.

NeoGenomics is a leading provider of cancer-focused genetic testing services and global oncology contract research services. Inivata will remain a separate business division alongside NeoGenomics’ growing clinical, pharma and informatics operations. 

CEO Clive Morris will become president of Inivata and report to Mark Mallon, CEO of NeoGenomics. Inivata will be focused on the continued development of leading liquid biopsy tests including RaDaR™, the highly sensitive personalised assay for the detection of residual disease and recurrence. 

At the start of the year Cambridge antibody powerhouse Kymab abandoned plans to float on the NASDAQ exchange and instead sold the business to French pharma company Sanofi for $1.45 billion. 

Kymab was founded by Professor Allan Bradley and Dr Glenn A Friedrich in 2010 based on developments in Prof. Bradley’s laboratory at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Then in February, news broke that GW Pharma, whose medicines are based on cannabis was being acquired for $7.2bn by fellow Nasdaq-listed company Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Dublin. That deal has now been finalised. This week AstraZeneca moved closer to a $39bn acquisition of Alexion, with shareholders approving the deal.

A duo of Stevenage-based businesses, Gyroscope and Achilles, announced US IPOs valued collectively at $324m.

And two darlings of the Cambridge scene – Alchemab and Mogrify – revealed or wrapped up superb Series A rounds. 

US investors piled into a stunning $82m round for Alchemab. The proceeds will be used to advance Alchemab’s unique target-agnostic drug discovery platform. 

The approach interrogates the entire antibody repertoires of individuals from well-defined groups who show unexpected resistance to disease despite genetic disposition or other risk factors predicative of a poor prognosis.
And cell therapy gamechanger Mogrify, led by Dr Darrin Disley, took its Series A to $33m with a $17m add-on raise. The company is transforming the development of ex vivo cell therapies and steering a new class of in vivo reprogramming therapies. 

The new cash will support the advancement of Mogrify’s immuno-oncology and ophthalmology programs, as well as continued platform development and the exploration of cell reprogramming for novel therapeutic application.

It has become clear at the start of 2021 that seed rounds are on average much larger than in the past and attracting a broader base of international backers. A classic example saw Eliem Therapeutics, based in Cambridge UK and Seattle, emerge from stealth with $80 million Series A investment in March.

Chronic pain, depression, epilepsy and anxiety are some of the areas Eliem Therapeutics plans to address with its huge war chest and a five-star team of executives.

With funding from RA Capital Management, Access Biotechnology, and Intermediate Capital Group, Eliem is targeting conditions that cause deep suffering for tens of millions of people every day.

Deals from January to May have rattled into public view at a rate to make one’s head spin. There are far too many to detail here but all hail to Inivata, which in February took its Series C to $60m with a fresh $35m raise, to Sense Biodetection which raised a $50m Series B in April and to PhoreMost which notched a $46m Series B in March.

The PhoreMost funding will be used to progress its preclinical ‘Allosteric PLK1’ collaboration with Sentinel Oncology into the clinic in 2022. The programme is initially targeted towards Glioma (brain tumours). 

PhoreMost will also progress multiple additional internal first-in-class drug discovery programmes across both oncology and ageing therapeutic indications.

Also noteworthy have been Acacia, which raised €27m growth capital in February; a $17m top-up raise for Wren Therapeutics taking its haul to date to $45m, NeoPhore’s £15.2m Series B in March and a super couple of months for Phico Therapeutics which lined up grants and milestone payments potentially worth $25m to advance antibacterial therapy and scale the fight against superbugs.

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