Nov 23, 2020 - Economy

New deals in the COVID economy

An illustration of the coronavrius in a lightbulb

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 is the macro horror of our lifetimes, and has destroyed or severely damaged countless businesses. But, like with most horribles, it also has created some opportunities.

Driving the news: Merck this morning announced an agreement to buy OncoImmune, a Maryland-based biotech that showed promising late-stage clinical results for a therapy that treats severe and critical coronavirus cases.

Deal details: Merck will pay $425 million in cash upfront plus possible earnouts for OncoImmune, which will spin out its non-coronavirus assets into an independent company. Merck also will invest $50 million into that new business, focused on cancer and autoimmune diseases, while OncoImmune's existing VC backers and company management will own the rest.

  • Drug details: OncoImmune in September released interim results from 75% of the Phase III clinical trial's planned enrollment, showing that those who received its therapeutics improved at a rate 60% higher than those who received the placebo, with the risk of death or respiratory failure cut in half.

This deal comes just days after AbCellera, Eli Lilly's partner on a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, filed for a $200 million IPO.

  • AbCellera, which raised over $100 million in VC funding from firms like DCVC, Viking Global and Founders Fund, also added Peter Thiel to its board and paid $90 million to buy a startup developer of genetically engineered mice that can generate fully human monoclonal antibodies.

It also comes on the same day that Bob Nelsen of Arch Venture Partners disclosed the creation of Resilience, which will operate as a giant COVID-19 supply chain manufacturing onshoring company.

  • Word was that Resilience was seeking to raise around $1 billion in Series A funding, with the official release putting the Series A figure at "over $800 million" from such backers as Nelsen's Arch Venture Partners, 8VC, GV and NEA.

The bottom line: We've talked a lot about how the pandemic has bifurcated the economy into Wall Street and Main Street. But it also appears to have created a bespoke economy altogether.

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