Roivant Sciences has had a bumpy couple of years, but that isn’t stopping investors from pouring more money into the four-year-old company, which aims to one day be a giant parent company for dozens of independent biopharmaceutical spinoffs — and is fulfilling that vision by creating one independent company at a time.
Roivant’s newest financing event: a $200 million raise at a post-money valuation of $7 billion, led by NovaQuest Capital Management, which is an investor in two of Roivant’s companies; RTW Investments, a young investment firm focused on biopharma; an unnamed “large U.S. insurance company,” and an unnamed “big U.S. investment firm,” according to a company spokesman.
The round follows a $1.1 billion round led last year by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which Roivant now says was closed at a post-money valuation of $5.6 million, though it didn’t necessarily look like money well spent at the time. To wit, roughly one month after the financing closed last August, Axovant Sciences, one of Roivant’s companies, received news that its much-hyped, experimental Alzheimer’s drug, intepirdine, doesn’t work.
It seemed a devastating outcome for Axovant, which Roivant had taken public in 2015 in what was then the biggest biotech IPO ever in the U.S. Its shares plummeted 75 percent on the news.
Worse, Axovant subsequently produced negative results in a phase 2b trial in Lewy body dementia (DLB), prompting a parting of ways with Medivation chief David Hung — who joined Axovant as CEO last year. (The company has yet to recover. Its shares, once trading at $25 a piece, are currently priced at $1.95. In what the company describes as a very separate move, Roivant staged layoffs in June and reassigned other employees, primarily directing them from Roivant to more of its subsidiaries.)
For what it’s worth, SoftBank did not invest in Axovant or any other Roivant subsidiary, and neither have the investors who just committed to pour $200 million into the company. They’re shareholders instead in the privately held umbrella company, which suddenly oversees 14 subsidiaries, almost all of them involving the word “vant,” and all of which Roivant has supported financially.
For example, in addition to Axovant, which is broadly focused on neurology, Roivant has also created Myovant Sciences, which is focused on women’s health and endocrine diseases; Dermavant Sciences, which is focused on dermatology; Enzyvant Sciences, which is focused on rare diseases; Urovant Sciences, focused on urology; and Datavant, which acts as a kind of middleware provider, helping healthcare institutions share data and that earlier this year raised $40.5 million in financing led by Roivant itself.
Much newer spin-offs include Immunovant, which was announced in July to focus on treating autoimmune disorders; Altavant, which was announced in June and aims to develop treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension; and Sinovant, announced in July, to focus on drug development in China.
Altogether, says the company, Roivant’s companies now employ 750 people who are working on 34 drugs in development.
Whether Roivant’s portfolio approach will pay off for investors — who received common shares for their newest investment — remains to be seen. But there’s little doubt that Roivant’s persuasive 33-year-old CEO and founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, has convinced them that anything is possible. As he told this editor during an interview last year, “Given the history of failure [on the part of drug companies to produce effective products for Alzheimer’s], I can’t blame someone who is skeptical from the outside. I would be, too.” Still, he’d continued, “I do think the model is one that stands on its own feet, irrespective of the success or failure of any one of the given clinical trials.”
Ramaswamy has had an interesting career to date. He was a biology major at Harvard who then worked as a hedge fund analyst while nabbing his law degree from Yale. While juggling both, he says he noticed pharmaceutical firms abandoning promising drugs for various reasons having nothing to do with their efficacy.
Seeing an opportunity to complete the development of some of these overlooked drug candidates and get them to market quickly, he struck out on his own in 2014.
One of his first moves was to acquire the Alzheimer’s pill around which he built the now-beleaguered Axovant. He procured it from GlaxoSmithKline as it was dialing down its neuroscience research with the financial backing of several hedge funds, including his former employer.
Roivant and its subsidiaries have now raised more than $3 billion altogether.
You can check out our conversation with Ramaswamy below.