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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.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - Podcasts

Bob Nelsen on AstraZeneca and his plan to revolutionize biotech

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday reported promising efficacy data for their COVID-19 vaccine, which has less stringent storage requirements than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and may be distributed earlier in developing countries.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the state of vaccine and therapeutics manufacturing with Bob Nelsen, a successful biotech investor who on Monday launched Resilience, a giant new pharma production platform that he believes will prepare America for its next major health challenges.

36 mins ago - Health

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 42 mins ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.