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Earnings: Covid Vaccines Deliver Big Sales, Profit For Moderna

Moderna was among the few biotech companies that saved the day with the development of an emergency-authorized vaccine to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a breakthrough for the company, which was before then a cancer-fighting moonshot with minimal revenues and no working product. Being a publicly-traded company, Moderna is mandated to release quarterly earnings reports to the public and it has done so this time around, releasing its financial results for the first quarter of this year 2021. Moderna's latest earnings report shows that of a company that saw big success from its Covid vaccines, as it reported record revenue and its first-ever net profit as a public company. By the numbers: Moderna made $1.9bn in revenue in Q1' 21, compared to a paltry $8mn for the same quarter in 2020. The revenue came wholly from Covid vaccine sales in the US and foreign markets. Moderna reported a huge net income of $1.2bn in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $124mn for the same perio

Earnings: Pfizer Rakes In Cash From COVID Vaccine

Pfizer, one of the few pharmaceutical companies worldwide to produce an approved Covid-19 vaccine, has unveiled its earnings report for the first quarter of this year. As usual, the report provides a solid peek into the company's financials and with very noteworthy nuggets this time around. One key nugget from Pfizer's earnings report is that the company brought in $3.5bn in revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine in Q1' 21. It made up nearly a fourth of the company's total $14.6bn revenue for the period. The Covid vaccine was the biggest single source of revenue for Pfizer in the quarter. It's definitely a good time for the company in that regard, as it elected to keep the profit from the sale of its vaccines unlike some of its competitors which volunteered to waive off any profit-seeking from their vaccines. Unlike some of its competitors also, Pfizer didn't take money from the US government to fund the development of its vaccine under the Trump administration'

SoftBank Makes Big Biotech Bet On UK Startup Exscientia

Once again, Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank has proven that it's a fan of the biotech industry with a major investment in the sector, and the latest testament to its likeliness of the sector is Exscientia, a UK startup using AI to accelerate drug discovery that has just completed a $225 million Series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. SoftBank led Exscientia's Series D round and was joined by a host of other big-name participants including BlackRock, Mubadala, Farallon Capital, and American pharmaceuticals giant Bristol-Myers Squibb.  SoftBank didn't just stop at leading Exscientia's round but committed an additional $300 million in equity funding that could be drawn at the company's discretion. This signals having a lot of confidence in the company. Exscientia is part of a crop of companies that have emerged in recent years to put to use the rapid development and improvement of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in the drug developm

Psychedelic Drugs Startup ATAI Life Sciences Files For IPO

A German startup that's betting heavily on psychedelic drugs having mainstream medical use soon has filed for an initial public offering in the US. That startup is ATAI Life Sciences, one founded by serial German entrepreneur Christian Angermayer. Backed by nearly $400 million in private funding, ATAI Life Sciences has used its large cash balance to buy up psychedelic drug candidates still in the pipeline. It even recently bought an ambitious startup that wants to use brain-computer interfaces to help treat mental health conditions. ATAI Life Sciences has submitted an S-1 filing for an IPO to the US SEC. It listed a placeholder size offering of $100 million, although that's an amount often used to estimate listing fees and is subject to change at any time. On its end, ATAI is promising investors an opportunity to buy in early into a startup at the forefront of applying psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs to potentially treat mental disorders. Whether investors buy into that

IPO: Drug Discovery Firm Recursion Pharma Debuts On Markets

Recursion Pharmaceuticals, a company using machine learning to hunt for new drugs and therapies for ailments, has raised $436 million from an initial public offering (IPO) and begun trading on the public markets. It sold roughly 24.2 million shares for $18 each to raise that amount. Recursion Pharma filed for an IPO last month in March. Debuting at $18 per share on the markets, it closed trading on Friday up more than 70% at $31.34, giving it a market value of over $5 billion. A seven-year-old company, Recursion is part of a group of companies that emerged in the past few years to harness the rapid development and improvement in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in recent years and apply them to drug discovery. Recursion uses AI and machine learning to help discover new drugs. Its customers are primarily pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer, which has a collaborative agreement with it to seek new drugs for fibrotic diseases. Bayer bought a $50 million stake i

SoftBank Makes Big Biotech Bet On Genetic Testing Firm Invitae

Japanese investor SoftBank has made a big bet in the biotech world, this time on a publicly-traded genetic testing company named Invitae (NYSE: NVTA). SB Management, a SoftBank subsidiary, led a $1.2 billion convertible bond investment for Invitae that gives the company ample cash to further its growth initiatives. SB Management is SoftBank's asset management group that owns billions of dollars in global stocks. It's separate from SoftBank's famed $100 billion Vision Fund that also makes big bets on global companies. By leading a $1.2B investment in Invitae, SoftBank has added the company to its list of major biotech public holdings which also include Canadian antibody developer AbCellera, 4D Molecular Therapeutics Inc, and DNA-sequencing company Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. Invitae is a genetic testing company offering test services for diseases in a range of areas, including neurology, pediatric genetics, and reproductive health. The company's appeal lies in

FTC Opposes Illumina's $8B Purchase Of Cancer Detection Startup Grail

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued to block the $8 billion purchase of cancer detection startup Grail  by Illumina, a publicly-traded genetic sequencing company.  Illumina has sought to acquire Grail, which's working on blood-based cancer detection tests, for $3.5 billion in cash and $4.5 billion in stock net of the 12% stake it already owns as an investor in Grail. To note, Grail was itself spun out of Illumina. With a legal case in the brews, the FTC argues that Illumina's planned purchase of Grail will "diminish innovation in the U.S. market" for multi-cancer early detection (MCED) tests, given that the blood-based early cancer detection test that Grail is developing depends on a type of DNA sequencing that only Illumina provides. On its end, the FTC is challenging Illumina's planned Grail purchase as one that'll give it an unfair edge in the MCED test market and has thus sued to block the purchase. A trial for the case will begin on Aug. 24, 2

Latest SPAC Deal: Genetic Testing Company 23andMe

The genetic testing company 23andMe is the latest company to join the boom of becoming publicly-traded by merging with special-purpose acquisition companies. Barely a month after it closed an $83 million funding round , 23andMe has announced a deal to merge with VG Acquisition Corp, a SPAC formed by the famed entrepreneur Richard Branson. 23andMe will merge with VG Acquisition Corp in a deal valued at $3.5 billion. As part of the merger, 23andMe will receive $509 million held in trust by VG Acquisition plus a top-up $250 million cash infusion that'll come from investors including Fidelity, Altimeter Capital, and Foresite Capital. Branson and 23andMe's CEO, Anne Wojcicki who's the ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will reach chip in $25 million into the $250 million round. At close, the combined company of VG Acquisition and 23andMe will have a cash balance exceeding $900 million. After the merger, 23andMe will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the t

Genetic Medicine Startup Tessera Nabs $230M Round

Tessera Therapeutics, a biotech startup working on the development of new genetic medicines and treatments, has raised $230 million in a Series B round co-led by the SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and Altitude Life Science Ventures, with participation from other investors including the Qatar Investment Authority. Tessera is notably a spin-off of Flagship Pioneering, the same life sciences developer that spun off Moderna, a company that has made its mark by developing a successful Covid-19 vaccine .  Tessera formally spun off from Flagship Pioneering in July 2020 and now a few months later has closed $230 million in Series B funding. The company is pioneering a concept that it terms "Gene Writing", referring to the ability to write therapeutic instructions into the genome to treat diseases at their source. Tessera is aiming to develop treatments and ailments for diseases by targeting them at their very source, the genomes. It's an ambitious vent

Moderna Kicks Off New Vaccine Programs

After successfully producing a Covid-19 vaccine with a high efficacy rate,  Moderna has announced that it's kicked off new vaccine programs for three diseases: seasonal Flu, Nipah Virus, and the HIV virus.  The three new vaccine programs will be based on the relatively newer Messenger RNA (mRNA) system, which Moderna successfully harnessed to develop its Covid-19 vaccine.  In basic terms, mRNA is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action. Unline traditional vaccines that work by training the body to recognize and respond to the proteins produced by disease-causing organisms, mRNA vaccines work by tricking the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself, the proteins being solitary and not able to assemble to form a virus. The immune system then detects these viral proteins and begin to produce a defensive response to them. With a successful application on the coronavirus disease, Moderna is apparently looking to replicate that success on the season

Bill Gates-Backed British Biotech Kymab Sells For $1.5B

The French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has reached a definitive agreement to buy Kymab, a British immunotherapy firm, in a $1.45 billion deal split into an upfront payment of $1.1 billion and then $350 million in top-up payments contingent on meeting certain milestones. Kymab is a firm backed by investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, ORI Capital, and Hepalink.  The company has raised roughly $230 million in venture funding. Sanofi's acquisition marks a sweet deal for Kymab, which was looking at a public listing in the US before now getting bought out. With Kymab under its belt, Sanofi will get full global rights to KY1005, a monoclonal antibody developed by Kymab with the potential to treat varieties of immune-mediated diseases and inflammatory disorders. Along with KY1005, Kymab also has another monoclonal antibody treatment in its pipeline; KY1044, which is currently in early Phase 1/2 development. To that, the acquisition benefits Sanofi w

Moderna Ups Vaccine Production Target

The American biotech company Moderna has increased the production target for its Covid-19 vaccine for this year, now seeking to produce 600 million doses this year compared to a previously stated 500 million doses.  Out of the targeted 600 million, 100 million doses are targeted to be available in the US by the end of the first quarter of this year and 200 million by the end of the second quarter. Already, 18 million doses have been supplied to the US government. Moderna received Emergency Use Authorization from the US last year December and began supplying to the government. Shortly after, it received approval from neighboring Canada and has also began supplying vaccines there. Moderna has partnered with a clique of pharmaceutical firms for the mass production and distribution of its Covid vaccines. It's secured big supply deals with a handful of countries, including 200 million doses ordered by the US, 40 million by Canada, and 7 million by the UK. Moderna is a forerunner in the

UK Approves Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine

The UK government has issued emergency use authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and researchers from Oxford University, two institutions notably based right there in the UK. The approval was announced by AstraZeneca on Wednesday. The approval for AstraZeneca's vaccine makes it the third pharmaceutical company to gain authorization from the UK government to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, after the American companies Pfizer and Moderna. With AstraZeneca and Oxford University both based in the UK, the country will likely benefit more from their Covid-19 vaccine thanks to proximity, wherein AstraZeneca has committed to supply up to 100 million doses in the country.  AstraZeneca conducted trials for its vaccine and posted an efficacy rate of 70% from its trials last month. The company has now been authorized to distribute vaccines to be administered on individuals 18 years or older, with a recommended two-shot dosage to be a

DNA Testing Startup 23andMe Nabs $83M Round

The DNA testing startup 23andMe has closed $82.5 million in a new fundraise, as indicated by filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company sought out to close an $85 million round and has already check-marked $82.5 million out of that amount, with only $2.5 million remaining. Reports indicate that the new funding was led by the venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and NewView Capital. Sequoia was already a significant investor in 23andMe prior to the new round, having led a $250 million round of funding for the company three years ago. 23andMe offers genetic testing kits to consumers who spit into a tube, send the kits back to the company and then get and get data concerning their ancestry and health background. In recent years, precisely circa 2018, 23andMe enjoyed peak sales from the sale of DNA testing kits to consumers and reportedly generated $475 million in revenue in 2018. Circa 2020, however, the sales of consumer test kits have slowed and led 23an

US Greenlights Moderna's Covid-19 Vaccine

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, the company has announced . It makes Moderna the second company to get a Covid-19 vaccine approved for use in the US, the other being Pfizer .  Under an Emergency Use Authorization, Moderna will begin distributing its vaccine for use and says 20 million doses will be delivered by the end of this month. The US Government is Moderna's first and main customer, having bestowed it with a $1.5 billion vaccine supply deal this August. Another major customer is the European Commission, which has ordered 160 million vaccine doses from Moderna. Altogether, Moderna has secured orders for over 470 million vaccine doses from countries including the US, EU nations, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Israel, Qatar, and Singapore. Moderna expects to deliver 20 million vaccine doses to the US government by the end of this year and supply between 85-100 mil

Alphabet's Verily Nabs $700M Round

Verily, the life sciences arm of the tech giant Alphabet, has raised a fresh $700 million round from a group of investors including Alphabet itself, Silver Lake, Temasek, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Verily says it'll use the new capital to support the expansion of some of its commercial businesses, including the clinical research platform Baseline and its health management platform, Verily Health Platforms.  Verily will also use the new capital to support the progress of several of its life sciences programs across surgery, pathology, and immunology. Notably, Verily has boosted its prowess amid the Covid-19 pandemic, wherein it's supported Covid-19 testing and research efforts with multiple partners with its Baseline clinical research platform. Verily has supported the testing of nearly two million people across 351 locations. Verily was founded in 2015 as a life sciences division under Google X, before it later rolled over into Alphabet. Still led by its founding C

AstraZeneca Buys Alexion In $39B Deal

The British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has announced that it's reached a deal to acquire Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a Boston-based biotech company focused on developing treatments for rare diseases and disorders.  AstraZeneca  will pay $60 in cash and roughly 1.06 common shares of AstraZeneca for each share of Alexion, summing up to a $39 billion deal, one of the biggest from the American biotech sector. The $39 billion price represents a premium of nearly 50% to Alexion's market cap of $26.5 billion as of market close on Friday. It represents the biggest biotech deal of 2020 and AstraZeneca's own biggest-ever acquisition. Alexion is a Boston-based biotech company best known for its development of Soliris , a drug used to treat certain rare disorders. The company had about $4 billion in sales last year and $5.9 billion in the nine months ending September 30, 2020. Upon completion of the acquisition, Alexion's current shareholders will own 15% of the combined company

US Greenlights Pfizer's Covid-19 Vaccine

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it's approved an Emergency Use Authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the pharmaceuticals company Pfizer in partnership with the German biotech firm BioNTech, making it the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for use in the US. The approval from the FDA comes just a week after UK authorities approved the same Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, making Pfizer the first company to get its vaccine approved by the two countries. Pfizer posted the results of the initial Phase 3 trial for its Covid-19 vaccine this November, reporting an efficacy rate of 95% . The company conducted trials on over 43,000 participants for the initial stage and plans to conduct more even as its vaccine has been greenlighted for emergency use.  The use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the US for individuals 16 years of age or older and could be administered to 20 million Americans in the &#3

Bill Gates-Backed AbCellera Goes Public

AbCellera Biologics, a biotech company working on antibody treatments for ailments including Covid-19 and is backed by investors including Bill Gates, has raised $483 million from an IPO on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange and saw its shares surge from $20 at debut to $58.90 at market close, giving it a market value of $15.7 billion. AbCellera marked one of the biggest biotech IPOs this year, with positive investor sentiment propelled by its work on a potential treatment for the Covid-19 disease. The Canadian company has developed a monoclonal antibody treatment for mild-to-moderate Covid-19 symptoms  that was authorized for use last month by US regulators. AbCellera is developing its Covid-19 treatment in partnership with the pharmaceutical company  Eli Lilly and has secured an order for 300,000 doses from the US government. Lilly will handle manufacturing and distribution while AbCellera focuses on the development and will make royalties from every dose sold. Before the Covid-19 pandemic st

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Cashing Out: Jeff Bezos Sells $2.5B Of Amazon Stock

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EVs: Ford, BMW Co-Invest In An EV Battery Startup

It's currently of no doubt that electric vehicles represent the future for the automobile market, and many automakers have taken heed to that. Tens of billions of dollars in spending have been earmarked for the R&D and production of electric vehicles by global automakers, with efforts spanning battery development, building new factories, charging stations et al. Now, two of the world's biggest automakers, BMW and Ford, have jointly invested in a startup working on battery technology for electric vehicles. That startup is Solid Power, a Colorado-based startup developing solid-state batteries for EVs. Details: Solid Power has raised a $130 million Series B round  co-led by Ford and BMW. The two automakers were joined by green-focused venture fund Volta Energy Technologies in the round. As part of the strategic round, Ford and BMW have expanded their joint agreements with Solid Power to develop solid-state batteries for their use. In a way, the two automakers are funding and o

Is Apple Brewing A Major Digital Health Play?

That Apple has high ambitions in the digital health space isn't foreign news to anyone following the moves of the company. In fact, its CEO Tim Cook once referred to health as Apple's “greatest contribution to mankind.” Apple's main health product is the Apple Watch for which health represents a major use case and a selling point. The latest Apple Watch series has key health features including the ability to measure ECG (electrocardiogram) and oxygen saturation level in the blood. With all its grand ambitions, the reality is that Apple is progressing very well in the digital health space but yet hasn't gotten a big foothold in it like it's done in other markets. There still exists a large gap for Apple to conquer to make waves in the digital health market and the company seems much hell-bent on covering that gap. Details: A certain revelation has come out that details Apple's grand plans in the health sector, and it's that of a UK startup working on next-ge

Big Pay: AT&T Shareholders Vote Against Execs Pay

To bring back one of our most favorite sayings, "America is the land of many things, including very enormous executive pay". Executives of publicly-traded companies in the US are familiar with very large compensation packages on a scale not seen in other countries, take recent examples including Palantir CEO Alex Karp landing a $1.1 billion payday  and former T-Mobile CEO John Legere getting a $137 million severance pay . But with all the large executive pay packages flying around, it appears that the shareholders of one public company are not okay with it and that company is telecoms giant AT&T.  Details: AT&T in a statement  revealed that the majority of its shareholders voted not in favor of the compensation of its executive officers in 2020. Just under 49% of votes were cast in favor of the compensation, leaving the remaining majority 51%, not in favor.  Last year, AT&T had large pay packages for its top brass including $21 million for CEO John Stankey and $52

Deal: Verizon Sells Yahoo And AOL To PE Firm For $5B

Telecoms giant Verizon has found a buyer for its Verizon Media Unit which includes veteran internet properties like Yahoo and AOL, and that buyer is a major private equity firm. To note, though Yahoo and AOL have long faded from their glory days, they aren't exactly dead properties but ones still with a great deal of users bringing in a few billion in revenue annually. Details: Verizon has struck a deal to sell 90% of Verizon Media to private equity firm Apollo which will pay $5 billion for it, while Verizon retains a  10%  minority stake in the business. The deal takes off many internet properties off Verizon's hands, including bigger ones like Yahoo and smaller ones like technology news site TechCrunch operating under the AOL umbrella. Though it's selling for a seemingly huge price of $5 billion, Verizon paid a combined $9 billion to buy the web properties making up its Verizon Media unit so it doesn't come out on top financially from the sale.  Verizon paid $4.4bn t

Germany's SAP Fined $8M For Violating Iran Sanctions

SAP, the German software giant, has agreed to pay a fine in the US for violating sanctions imposed by the country on conducting business in Iran. It'll pay over $8 million in fines after admitting to handling thousands of exports of its software to Iran violating US law. Details: SAP admitted to exporting US-origin software to Iran beginning in 2010 up until 2017. The exports including delivering software upgrades and patches more than 20,000 times to Iranian users and offering Iranian users access to US-based cloud services. As charged, executives at SAP were aware that the company didn't have geolocation protections to block downloads of its US-origin software in Iran and turned a blind eye to the situation.  SAP was also charged with neglecting to put in place adequate export control for cloud services made by some US-based companies that it acquired and integrated into its software suite. For the charges, SAP admitted guilt and reached a  Non-Prosecution Agreement with the

IPO: Cybersecurity Startup Darktrace Debuts On UK Markets

A major cybersecurity startup from the UK has held an initial public offering (IPO) and debuted to positive investor fanfare on the domestic public markets. That startup is Darktrace, a fast-growing cybersecurity startup founded by a team of mathematicians in collaboration with British intelligence agencies in 2013. Darktrace sells cyber-defense software that's claimed to harness artificial intelligence in spotting and managing cyber threats. It listed on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol "DARK". By the numbers: Darktrace debuted to positive investor fanfare that saw its shares soar by 40% on its first day of trading. It raised £143 million ($198m) from the public float at a valuation of £1.7 billion ($2.3bn) which soared to almost £2.4 billion ($3.3bn) on its debut trading day. Darktrace's IPO prospectus reports $199 million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. This was up from $137 million in the previous year, 2019, and $79 mill

Earnings: Pfizer Rakes In Cash From COVID Vaccine

Pfizer, one of the few pharmaceutical companies worldwide to produce an approved Covid-19 vaccine, has unveiled its earnings report for the first quarter of this year. As usual, the report provides a solid peek into the company's financials and with very noteworthy nuggets this time around. One key nugget from Pfizer's earnings report is that the company brought in $3.5bn in revenue from its Covid-19 vaccine in Q1' 21. It made up nearly a fourth of the company's total $14.6bn revenue for the period. The Covid vaccine was the biggest single source of revenue for Pfizer in the quarter. It's definitely a good time for the company in that regard, as it elected to keep the profit from the sale of its vaccines unlike some of its competitors which volunteered to waive off any profit-seeking from their vaccines. Unlike some of its competitors also, Pfizer didn't take money from the US government to fund the development of its vaccine under the Trump administration'

Earnings: Covid Vaccines Deliver Big Sales, Profit For Moderna

Moderna was among the few biotech companies that saved the day with the development of an emergency-authorized vaccine to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a breakthrough for the company, which was before then a cancer-fighting moonshot with minimal revenues and no working product. Being a publicly-traded company, Moderna is mandated to release quarterly earnings reports to the public and it has done so this time around, releasing its financial results for the first quarter of this year 2021. Moderna's latest earnings report shows that of a company that saw big success from its Covid vaccines, as it reported record revenue and its first-ever net profit as a public company. By the numbers: Moderna made $1.9bn in revenue in Q1' 21, compared to a paltry $8mn for the same quarter in 2020. The revenue came wholly from Covid vaccine sales in the US and foreign markets. Moderna reported a huge net income of $1.2bn in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $124mn for the same perio

Court Docs: Fortnite Maker Epic Made $15B In 2018-2020

Fortnite maker Epic Games is having a court battle with Apple over the latter's App Store practices and that battle has led to several documents coming out of the shadows with valuable information about Epic Games not publicly known before.  Among the information revealed in court proceedings between Epic and Apple is the sheer scale of Epic's revenue largely gotten from its hit game Fortnite . Official documents indicate that Epic Games made respective annual sales of $5.6bn, $4.2bn, and $5.1bn in 2018, 2019, and 2020, summing up to just shy of $15bn. Epic's revenue in 2018 and 2019 was revealed in financial documents made public as part of its court battle with Apple while its revenue for 2020 was separately revealed in a court testimony by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. The vast majority of Epic's revenue comes from Fortnite while its other products like the Unreal Engine and the Epic Games Store bring in a minority of revenues. Specifically, Fortnite brought in $5.5bn a