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August 2nd, 2023 | 09:15 CEST

Well positioned for the future - BioNTech, Defence Therapeutics, Sanofi

  • Biotechnology
  • Pharma
  • AI
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There is currently a lot of movement in the capital-intensive biotech sector. After second-tier companies, in particular, were hit hard by the effects of tighter monetary policy last year and at times traded below their cash levels, many are now considered hot takeover candidates thanks to their innovative technologies. The well-heeled pharma giants must act to avoid missing out on future blockbusters.

time to read: 3 minutes | Author: Stefan Feulner

Table of contents:

    David Elsley, CEO, Cardiol Therapeutics Inc.
    "[...] As a company dedicated to developing treatments for rare heart diseases, we see this as an opportune moment to contribute to the fight against heart disease and make meaningful strides in improving heart health worldwide. [...]" David Elsley, CEO, Cardiol Therapeutics Inc.

    Full interview


    BioNTech - Jumping on the AI train

    Once before, the Mainz-based biotech company found itself in the right place at the right time, namely with its vaccine Comirnaty. Despite the now almost forgotten Corona pandemic, the drug, which was marketed together with US partner Pfizer, flushed billions into the vaults of the "Goldmine 12". As of December 31, 2022, BioNTech's cash balance stood at EUR 13.9 billion.

    Naturally, part of this is to go into research and development, with around EUR 2.6 billion planned for the current fiscal year. In total, spending and investments for 2023 are expected to amount to around EUR 4 billion. With the final acquisition of the AI company InstaDeep, the largest merger in the still-young history of the Company has now been signed and sealed. The purchase price was around EUR 500 million in cash plus BioNTech shares. In addition, outstanding performance-based payments are to follow, according to the Company.

    InstaDeep will henceforth operate as a global subsidiary of BioNTech based in the United Kingdom. In addition to ongoing projects on behalf of BioNTech, the UK-based company will continue to provide services to clients in various industries worldwide, including technology, transportation, logistics, industrial and financial services. Through this transaction, BioNTech gains access to an employee base of approximately 290 highly skilled professionals who bring expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, bioengineering, data science and software development.

    Sanofi - End announced

    The BioNTech stock did not move much, with only a 2% increase after entering the field of artificial intelligence, due to the second, rather negative news of the day. Accordingly, the French pharmaceutical company and BioNTech decided to terminate the further development of BNT131, a mixture of four mRNAs that were being researched together as an intratumoral cancer therapy and brought into a subsequently extended Phase I clinical trial.

    A press release from Sanofi, which was formed in 2004 by the merger of Sanofi-Synthélabo and Aventis, stated that "Sanofi and BioNTech have jointly decided to terminate the development of the mRNA encoding cytokines SAR441000 as an intratumoral therapy based on the results of the interim analysis."

    At the end of the last stock market week, the French company delivered second quarter figures reporting lower sales and operating profit due to unfavorable exchange rates. In the period under review, Sanofi reported a slight decline in sales of 1.5% to just under EUR 9.97 billion, despite successful business with products such as the blockbuster Dupixent and vaccinations. Taking into account constant exchange rates, the increase in sales would have been 3.3%.

    The Company's adjusted operating profit also decreased slightly to EUR 2.7 billion. Following the publication of the figures, US bank JPMorgan reiterated its price target of EUR 105 with an "overweight" rating. In contrast, the experts at Deutsche Bank Research maintained their "sell" rating with a price target of EUR 90.

    Defence Therapeutics - Milestone reached

    A scalable platform technology forms the basis for Defence Therapeutics' plans this year, including two Phase I studies targeting cancer and anticipated key results from a comparative study on mRNA vaccines. The Canadian biotech company is committed to developing next-generation vaccines and ADC products using its proprietary and patented Accum™ technology. It has the distinct advantage of ensuring the precise transport of vaccine antigens or ADCs in intact form to target cells, significantly improving efficiency and, thus efficacy against diseases such as cancer or infectious diseases.

    Defence Therapeutics also set a milestone in the cooperation agreement with the French specialists in nuclear medicine, Orano. In the first step, an active ingredient from Orano was successfully linked to Accum™ and made usable. The following milestones include synthesising a second AccuTOX™ variant containing a cathepsin B-dependent cleavable sequence. The goal here is to develop radiotherapy with improved efficacy by combining the intracellular drug delivery expertise of Defence Therapeutics with the radiochemical know-how provided by Orano. The market for radiopharmaceuticals alone is enormous. Market analysis firm The Insight Partners forecasts that the market volume is expected to grow from USD 7.55 billion in 2021 to USD 13.818 billion by 2028 at an annual growth rate of 9.0%.

    Defence Therapeutics' market capitalization is currently CAD 124.49 million. Should the Company stay on schedule and start the planned Phase I trials this year, the stock, currently trading at CAD 2.85, should leave behind its current high for the year at CAD 4.85. You can read an in-depth interview with Defence Therapeutics CEO Sébastien Plouffe here.

    BioNTech is investing in the future with the acquisition of UK AI company InstaDeep. In contrast, the BNT131 development collaboration with Sanofi has been halted. Defence Therapeutics is expected to shine this year with a continuous news flow and should move into higher regions if Phase I trials start successfully.

    Conflict of interest

    Pursuant to §85 of the German Securities Trading Act (WpHG), we point out that Apaton Finance GmbH as well as partners, authors or employees of Apaton Finance GmbH (hereinafter referred to as "Relevant Persons") may hold shares or other financial instruments of the aforementioned companies in the future or may bet on rising or falling prices and thus a conflict of interest may arise in the future. The Relevant Persons reserve the right to buy or sell shares or other financial instruments of the Company at any time (hereinafter each a "Transaction"). Transactions may, under certain circumstances, influence the respective price of the shares or other financial instruments of the Company.

    In addition, Apaton Finance GmbH is active in the context of the preparation and publication of the reporting in paid contractual relationships.

    For this reason, there is a concrete conflict of interest.

    The above information on existing conflicts of interest applies to all types and forms of publication used by Apaton Finance GmbH for publications on companies.

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    Der Autor

    Stefan Feulner

    The native Franconian has more than 20 years of stock exchange experience and a broadly diversified network.
    He is passionate about analyzing a wide variety of business models and investigating new trends.

    About the author

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