As we speculate about PFE and Amrn this is an interesting backdrop on how PFE acquired Trillium from Endpoints News: https://endpts.com/how-jan-skvarka-and-trillium-talked-their-way-into-biotechs-hottest-vax-summer/
How Jan Skvarka and Trillium went from down and out to buyout with Pfizer
How do you pull off one of the most lucrative biotech turnarounds in history?
You begin, it seems, by calling up the chief business officer of a Big Pharma sitting beneath a $30 billion-plus windfall and asking if he might want to get in on a modest investment in an up-and-coming company.
At least that’s what Trillium CEO Jan Skvarka asked Pfizer global business vice president John DeYoung in early summer 2021. Trillium was valued at a couple of shades under $1 billion at the time, an astronomical valuation from the penny stock mire it sat at when Skvarka arrived in October 2019.
But they could still use some cash, so Skvarka asked DeYoung if Pfizer, which had already invested $25 million, would chip in another 25. It was less than a thousandth of their Covid-19 vaccine revenue, barely half of what a star athlete like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes made in a season.
By Aug. 21, Pfizer had agreed to buy out all of Trillium for $2.3 billion, or roughly what it would cost to buy the Kansas City Chiefs.
It was a rapid close for a company with an almost unprecedentedly rapid rise. The valuation surpassed even the estimates the company’s own financial advisors, Clearwater, provided. It was more than triple Trillium’s closing price-per-share and more than 200 times the value of the company when Skvarka arrived.
For all that value creation, the Slovakian ex-investor and financial advisor will earn a Mahomesian sum, taking home just over $25 million from his Trillium stock options, according to SEC filings Monday.
How much credit Skvarka deserves for the turnaround remains an open question. Unlike Pharmacyclics and other previous biotech cinderellas, Trillium does not owe its turnaround to any disease-changing data or molecules nearing approval.
On the contrary, even some of their results from earlier this year have been a mixed bag.
Instead, Trillium began trading up in the winter of 2020 for well, no clear reason. The company had to actually put out a statement that February just to make clear it didn’t know of any undisclosed info that could account for its surging stock.
Soon, though, Trillium would rise for a different, clearer reason: the broader interest in CD47, a target many executives hoped could expand and turbocharge the reach of immunotherapies — and one that Trillium had been working on since at least 2013. That March, Gilead bought out Irv Weissman’s Forty Seven for $4.9 billion, and Trillium’s stock jumped from $4 to $7 amid speculation that they too might be bought out.
The speculation, it turned out, was accurate. According to the new documents, Trillium was already exploring a partnership with a company. It hired Centerview two days after Gilead announced its buyout.
That June, after Trillium released promising but not overwhelming data for its CD47 antibody, executives began their first talks with Pfizer. The first $25 million investment came in September 2020, days after AbbVie bet $200 million on I-Mab’s CD47 antibody.
The only data it released between that investment and the buyout were met with mixed reviews.
At the same time, though, Skvarka, a veteran of Bain and PureTech, made key decisions on the path to the acquisition. He all but ended development on Trillium’s main preclinical molecule and slowed development on one of their CD47 antibodies, while accelerating another.
And when he reached out to Pfizer over the summer, he told them he wouldn’t settle for a price-per-share below $13 — a gutsy ask, given Trillium’s stock would fall to as little as half that in those months.
But Pfizer was game. After only a couple of exchanges DeYoung and Deborah Baron, Pfizer’s SVP of business development, called Skvarka to say they wanted to buy out Trillium for $15 per share, or roughly $1.8 billion. And they said they wanted to close by Aug. 23.
After that, only two other companies were involved, as Trillium tried to gauge the industry’s broader interest — one biopharma that never showed much inclination and another that eventually decided Trillium was too early stage. Trillium’s board didn’t even bother reaching out to the first company executives had spoken to in 2020, deciding it didn’t have the capabilities to pull off such a bid.
After a few back and forth negotiations, Pfizer and Trillium agreed to a $2.3 billion buyout — $18.50 per share — on Aug. 21. They announced the deal two days later, precisely on the New York pharma’s schedule.