Life Science Today

Zymeworks, Phathom, Catalyst, CenExel, Intercept + Advanz

May 10, 2022 Noah Goodson, PhD Season 3 Episode 99
Life Science Today
Zymeworks, Phathom, Catalyst, CenExel, Intercept + Advanz
Show Notes Transcript

Resets for biotech, antibiotics approval not enough, continued consolidation, and a normal deal

Find out more at

Story References
Intercept + Advanz

About the Show
Life Science Today is your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. Expect weekly highlights about new technologies, pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions, news about the moves of venture capital and private equity, and how the stock market responds to biotech IPOs. Life Science Today also explores trends around clinical research, including the evolving patterns that determine how drugs and therapies are developed and approved. It’s news, with a dash of perspective, focused on the life science industry.


Welcome to Life Science Today, your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. I’m your host, Dr. Noah Goodson. This week, resets for biotech, antibiotics approval not enough, continued consolidation, and a normal deal.


The views expressed on Life Science Today are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organizations with which they are affiliated. 

Inflated Biotech Hit Resets

It was pretty obvious over the last couple of years that some of the biotech valuations were ambitious. As the market hits some turbulence this year, organizations that have not fully delivered on the promises are seeing significant changes in their fates. One of these is Zymeworks, whose stocks have shed billions in value from highs above $55/share at the beginning of 2021, to just $5.44 today. In this tailspin, All Blue Capital, has stepped in with a $773M cash bid offering a seemingly generous $10.50/share price to completely purchase the company, valuing the company far below it’s projections a year ago, but well above its current stock. Prior to the takeover bid, Zymeworks has made moves with a new CEO, cleaning out upper leadership, and a 25% staffing cut – but many more steps may be needed to save the organization. In their favor, Zymeworks has some key partnerships and deep technology across the antibody space. This at least alleviates the one-trick pony risk and is likely the reason for the acquisition efforts of All Blue Capital. Whether Zymeworks board sells to All Blue or not, I suspect we may see a spat of similar moves as the capital markets continue to shift across 2022. 

Antibiotics + Anti-acids 

The FDA has granted Phathom Pharmaceuticals approval to treat Helicobacter pylori with both their  combination treatments Voquenza Triple Pak and Dual Pak. The therapies are not so much something new on the market but combine well know antibiotics amoxicillin, clarithromycin and in the triple pack the acid suppressant vonoprazan is added. Both treatments were shown to be non-inferior to the extent therapies and with drug resistance on the rise, new therapeutic approaches are absolutely needed. H Pylori is widespread, with an estimated 50% of the world population carrying the bacteria in their stomach, but only a subset ever go on to develop gastric ulcers. The prevalence however means lot’s of opportunities for drug resistant strains to develop. Even these new combination therapies only show a 78.5-84.7% eradication rate. 

The double approval might seem like a windfall for Phathom, who is aiming to bring the core element vonoprazan to the market for other conditions, key among them Erosive Esophagitis. Indeed, following the approval they immediately announced a $260M raise with $100M upfront from non-dilutive revenue interest financing. This capital is meant to see their vonoprazan pipeline to maturity. However, the markets are not particularly gentle at this moment and did respond positively with ~38% drop in value over the last week and 55% YTD. 

Continued Site Consolidation

The clinical research space continues to trend towards consolidation. Moves have slowed a bit in 2022, but this may be more reflective of available targets then actual changes in the tendency of the market to merge. Two moves last week kicked off this May. 

First, Catalyst Clinical Research, a small clinical research organization (CRO) with a predominant focus on oncology acquired the EU based CRO Aptus Clinical. This is a case of two smaller CROs coming together to enable a more global impact, with Catalyst covering the US and Aptus across the UK and EU. This is the third M&A move of Catalyst since 2019 and mostly signals their desire to continue to advance as an organization with more global impact. With plenty of larger fish in the sea, there are certainly plenty of opportunities if they can continue to advance their sales and footprint with trials on both sides of the pond.

CROs are just part of the space, another key segment for continued growth is site networks. One of the organizations scooping up and incorporating sites has been CenExel, who’s model is based on diversified sites functioning as centers of excellence, hence the name. Their most recent move is to bring some CNS sites in from the company iResearch in Georgia. In keeping with CenExel’s model these will basically be integrated to the larger network but stand alone in many ways functionally. 

While we head into a phase where pharma’s and biotech’s look a bit more amoebic, combining and breaking apart to find the best fit in flexible markets, the clinical research support space remains on a clear consolidation-only track. In fact, if you hear/see a story of divestment or breakup in clinical development services anywhere, please let me know.

$450M Market Splits 

Intercept Pharmaceuticals has sold their rights for international commercial sales of Ocaliva to Advanz Pharma for $405M upfront plus $45M in milestones. Ocaliva is currently FDA approved to treat primary biliary cholangitis, but is in clinical trials for additional liver-related conditions. This deal gives Intercept the capital and freedom to remain focused on US sales pipeline as well advancing the rest of their clinical pipeline. Advanz has plenty of experience in bringing drugs to market, particularly across Europe. In a world of unprecedented deals and unpredictable markets, this particularly partnership is a nice dose of normal global business partnerships. 

Closing Credits                                                 

Thanks for joining me for Life Science Today, your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. Learn more at If you like what you hear, please tell a friend. Once again, I’m Dr. Noah Goodson, I’ll see you next week.