This week we explore the approval of updated COVID-19 vaccines, the announcement of two biotech initial public offerings and a special purpose acquisition company transaction. We also look at the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine and decreased U.S. and European investment in Chinese biotech firms.
Each week we highlight five things affecting the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that target current variants, specifically for ages 12 and up. According to Fierce Pharma, these vaccines address the omicron variant XBB.1.5. Moderna warns of a potential tripledemic involving COVID, flu and respiratory syncytial virus. Moderna will ship the new doses soon, while Pfizer-BioNTech has pre-manufactured doses for readiness.
Neumora and RayzeBio aim to raise over $200 million each in upcoming IPOs, according to the Fierce Biotech article. Neumora, valued at up to $2.74 billion, offers treatments for brain diseases and has nine investigational programs. RayzeBio is introducing its radiopharmaceuticals pipeline with its lead program RYZ101 targeting gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.
Calidi Biotherapeutics, a San Diego-based biotech company, has gone public through a merger with the SPAC First Light Acquisition Group, raising nearly $70 million for the development of its allogeneic stem cell therapies, according to Fierce Biotech. The merged entity will continue to operate as Calidi and will have approximately $28 million in gross proceeds, with a portion allocated for transaction expenses and debts. Additionally, Calidi has secured agreements with investment consortiums and funds to potentially raise additional capital, aiming to fund its operations through 2025.
Researchers in Japan have developed a COVID-19 vaccine by combining an antibody against the virus’s spike protein with a synthetic RNA strand, according to Fierce Pharma. The vaccine is delivered under the tongue. When tested in primates, the vaccine triggered the production of antibodies that prevent the virus from attaching to mucosal cells with no observed side effects. While its efficacy and durability of protection are still uncertain, this vaccine represents a novel approach to COVID-19 immunization.
American and European venture capital firms are reducing their investments in Chinese drugmakers, contributing to a slowdown in China’s biotechnology industry, according to the Wall Street Journal. This pullback is influenced by global trends in reduced venture investment, China’s economic challenges and rising geopolitical tensions. While venture funding for Chinese biotechs surged in the years leading up to 2021, it has since declined significantly, impacting the crowded and competitive Chinese biotech market. The Biden administration recently issued an executive order prohibiting new U.S. venture, private-equity and joint-venture investment in certain Chinese companies involved in advanced semiconductors and quantum computing. The biopharma industry was not included in this order, but such regulation may continue to reduce investment across all industries.