Juno Therapeutics brought biotech-startup financing to new heights by padding its coffers with $314 million in its first year. Now the Seattle cancer-immunotherapy company may also set a lofty standard for giving its nonprofit research partners a big piece of the potential financial rewards.
The filings for Juno’s pending $150 million initial public offering of stock show the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center could ultimately make buckets of money from the company.
And one of those buckets contains $375 million.
“The Hutch” and New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center provide key intellectual property and continuing know-how for Juno, which is building on some remarkable results at both institutions in small handfuls of patients with lymphomas and leukemias.
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Should these results create new therapies, The Hutch would share in the financial upside in several ways.
It owns about 5.2 percent of Juno’s pre-IPO shares. It also will receive $6.75 million for each drug approved by regulators that stems from a Hutch license, as well as a sales royalty “in the low single digits.” And, there’s a collaboration agreement providing $8 million for research at The Hutch.
But the eye-catching figure of $375 million comes from yet another mechanism: a series of “success payments” pegged to Juno’s future market value. For perspective, The Hutch’s total revenue for the year ended June 30, 2013, was $413 million — and that didn’t quite cover its expenses for cancer care and research.
Such a check won’t be written any time soon: The success payments begin with $10 million when Juno’s market capitalization reaches about $1.4 billion. They max out if the company’s value hits approximately $14 billion — pretty rarefied territory, given that fewer than one out of 10 among the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index’s 117 companies command such heights. This region’s most valuable company in the sector, Bothell-based Seattle Genetics, is worth about $4.6 billion.
Sloan Kettering has its own, parallel series of rewards. The success-payment number is $150 million, but that doesn’t mean the New York institution got the short end of the stick. Its royalty terms, for instance, could be richer than The Hutch’s.
Seattle Children’s also has licensed key patent rights to Juno and is conducting research sponsored by the company; Children’s is entitled to royalties on successful drugs as well as milestone payments, but it doesn’t have the success payments. Neither Children’s nor Sloan Kettering has a 5 percent stake in Juno, either.
Mark Schoenebaum, a biotech analyst for Evercore ISI in New York, says the success payments resemble deals struck by large biotechs when they license technology from smaller ones.
Bruce Montgomery, a longtime Seattle biotech chief who heads Cardeas Pharma, says the terms reflect how academic institutions are getting more aggressive about sharing in the financial potential of their lifesaving work.
“The deal that they gave to Sloan Kettering and The Hutch is one of the richest deals I’ve seen” for a nonprofit research center, he says.
“There’s a huge amount of promise here, and I think Sloan Kettering and The Hutch realized they had something special, and they got a pretty good deal.”
— Rami Grunbaum: @rgrunbaum.com
Bezos lauds benefits of risk
There are plenty of Amazon shareholders who hope the company would cut back on risky investments in new business. But Jeff Bezos is clearly not one of them.
“I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally,” Amazon’s founder and CEO said at Business Insider’s Ignition conference last week in New York.
But Bezos added that the payoff for just a handful of big bets compensate for plenty of failures. At the New York conference, Bezos told the story of how Amazon’s unsuccessful auction site eventually morphed into the company’s third-party-seller marketplace that accounts for 40 percent of the units sold on Amazon.com.
In the onstage interview, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget pressed Bezos on the Fire Phone, Amazon’s disastrous bid to crack the smartphone market. In September, Amazon cut the price of the phone to 99 cents with a two-year contract starting from $199. That led to a third-quarter charge of $170 million.
But Bezos insisted that some bets take time. Like Amazon’s auction business, Bezos said the company will continue to iterate on the Fire Phone.
“With the phone, I ask you to stay tuned.”
How long? Blodget asked. Bezos answered with typical Amazon opacity.
“Ask me in some number of years,” Bezos said.
— Jay Greene email@example.com.
Fewer workers for holidays hired
Though Washington retailers will again be hiring thousands of workers for the holiday season, they’re expected to hire fewer this year than last.
That’s according to the state’s Employment Security Department, which says retailers in the state are expected to hire more than 15,000 seasonal workers from October through December — down from 16,050 hired during last year’s holiday season.
Last year’s number — which was 14 percent higher than the department had predicted — was due mainly to higher than projected increases in hiring by general merchandise and clothing stores.
Hiring in those two categories are expected to be lower this year. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, the department forecasts the hiring of an additional 8,754 workers this holiday season — down from 9,398 last year.
Nationally, though, some 800,000 seasonal workers are expected to be hired this year — up from 786,200 last year — as retailers expect seasonal gains to slightly outperform 2013, according to the Employment Security Department.
— Janet I. Tu: firstname.lastname@example.org
Starbucks to test delivery service
Starbucks is figuring out how to take the “run” out of the Starbucks run — by offering delivery.
At an investors’ gathering Thursday in Seattle, chief digital officer Adam Brotman said delivery was the idea “most requested” by customers, and that it would launch a test in a few markets in the second half of next year.
The announcement is part of the company’s effort to extend its reach — and improve the productivity of its coffee shops — using its mobile payment platform. Last week the coffee giant launched a mobile-ordering service in Portland that it says it will later spread to the rest of the country. That service, Brotman said, is a win-win for customers and the company: it frees cashiers to spend more time preparing coffee and talking to patrons instead of taking orders.
And it allows clients to browse the menu, including the new food options Starbucks is concocting — more leisurely, without the pressure of being in line. That might result in them spending more money, Brotman said.
A delivery service would be a natural follow-up. Starbucks is considering two different models to implement it: delivering beverages made in high-volume Starbucks facilities to high-density areas, or using third-party delivery services to transport items from existing stores.
Both the incipient mobile ordering platform and the soon to be tested delivery play into Starbucks’ strategy to have people use its mobile app, which is tightly integrated into the Starbucks rewards program. Reward members spend more money than those who are not, company executives say.
— Ángel González: email@example.com