AMPLYX PHARMACEUTICALS, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer, is a 25 person private clinical-stage biotech company dedicated to the development of therapies for debilitating and life-threatening diseases that affect people with compromised immune systems. Amplyx’s lead compound, Fosmanogepix (APX001), is a novel investigational asset under development for the treatment of invasive fungal infections. Amplyx was founded in 2006 with headquarters in San Diego, California, and was acquired by Pfizer on April 28th, 2021.
Chris LeMasters joined Amplyx Pharmaceuticals bringing over 20 years of experience negotiating in biotech and pharma. As EVP and COO, LeMasters came on board to the company as it was developing two in-licensed assets, with an ultimate plan to sell the company.
Amplyx, working with a very specific development vision for their asset, had raised capital towards drug development and data generation. LeMasters doesn’t just think of Amplyx’s work as developing therapies, as he puts it, “we’re making data.” In a business development role, his job is to translate that data so it best tells the story of the promising work the company does. With a 25 person company like Amplyx, each person is highly experienced, knowledgeable and has hands-on involvement in creating and evaluating that data. LeMasters explained that whereas “a senior director role in a big company would have lots of people reporting to them doing the work, in this case they’re the ones doing the work too.”
“One of the things Firmex excels at is that it’s easy to organize. It’s easy to allow different employees to look into the system to make sure everything is okay, and I’m able to differentiate them from full administrators.”
— Chris LeMasters, EVP and CEO, Amplyx Pharmaceuticals
Because Pfizer was a prior round investor in Amplyx, they held the right of first negotiation when it came time to sell the company. While this was a promising endorsement, it was not a guarantee for deal success. Amplyx had to make sure that the compelling story their data told was well organized and easily accessible early on, so that Pfizer and any other interested parties had a thorough and informed understanding of Amplyx even before the diligence process began.
Preparing the Data Room
One of the challenges to presenting Amplyx’s data was the fact that the majority of the company’s employees were key contributors, not to mention the additional contractors and consultants involved as well. This meant many people would be accessing and uploading documents into the data room at the same time. Maintaining consistency and organization was going to be difficult. With most of the company involved, preparing the data room also posed the risk of distraction, pulling employees’ time and focus away from their actual work.
Once the data room was established and populated, a new challenge of permissioning arose. Before potential buyers even began to access the room, there were third parties who needed to review information. While some needed access only to scientific data, others needed access solely to corporate documents, and LeMasters needed to be sure that only the relevant documents were available to their intended audience.
By the time the data room was open for business and Amplyx was engaged in the diligence process with Pfizer, LeMasters had granted data room access to up to 180 users. On a daily basis, he would receive access requests for new names that would trickle in one at a time. He needed a way to keep track of requests and add users efficiently.
Deal-ready Data Room
LeMasters wanted the Amplyx data room to be prepared well in advance so that he and his team could be strategic about when and how they presented the company’s data. That made a subscription service the right solution for Amplyx.
Beginning with series C financing in December of 2019, Amplyx transitioned their Firmex virtual data room to be transaction-ready in August of 2020. In a multi-use context like this one, it made sense to LeMasters to treat the data room like an external cloud server, something that wouldn’t have been feasible with a transaction-only model. Amplyx’s head of regulatory ensured that documents were up to date, which in turn meant that come deal time, LeMasters could focus on ironing out the finer details without worrying about spearheading a large initial setup. “This is a policy of good housekeeping,” LeMasters said, “supported by Firmex’s good pricing.”
LeMasters inherited the Firmex data room when he joined Amplyx, so ushering the company through Pfizer’s acquisition was his first time using it. “It had to be easy to use,” he said. And it was. The ease of use allowed LeMasters and the Amplyx team to leverage the data room tools, not just operationally, but strategically as well.
Being deal-ready meant that LeMasters and his team had the time to control and customize the presentation of their data. Without the pressure of the deal already being underway, they could prepare the data room, test permissioning, and make a plan for how to efficiently handle buy-side access.
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A Prepared Data Room
With ongoing access to the Amplyx data room through a subscription, LeMasters was able to refine the system of organization and file structuring well in advance of any deal process. “One of the things Firmex excels at is that it’s easy to organize,” LeMasters said. “It’s easy to allow different employees to look into the system to make sure everything is okay, and I’m able to differentiate them from full administrators.” All members of the Amplyx team knew exactly where and how to upload data and the process was smooth. Being deal ready also freed up Amplyx’s employees from being distracted by preparing the data room. It saved time, so that they could focus on operating the business.
The Confidence of “View As”
Customizable permissioning proved useful for LeMasters when he began to invite external parties into the data room. “One of the nice features of Firmex is that I can click on any potential company, see the way that I’ve set them up in terms of what they can see and what they can access, and I can click a button and pretend to be them, which for me is very very helpful.” This was particularly important to LeMasters when he brought in new users to review. The “View As” tool left him “feeling comfortable enough to bring in third parties to see your data room to make sure you’re set when the curtains go up,” LeMasters said.
Efficient and Easy Buy-side Access
As LeMasters fielded requests for new user access each day, he relied on the ability to add multiple users at once via excel. The integration proved invaluable for him, especially as Amplyx neared the end of the deal funnel. “There is a point in the deal where the dollars stop mattering and time does,” LeMasters explained. Leveraging the tools that made things as efficient, organized, and customizable as possible, was crucial in closing the deal with Pfizer at the right time.
“One of the nice features of Firmex is that I can click on any potential company, see the way that I’ve set them up in terms of what they can see and what they can access, and I can click a button and pretend to be them, which for me is very very helpful.”
— Chris LeMasters, EVP and CEO, Amplyx Pharmaceuticals
As LaMasters guided Amplyx through the sell-side process, he worked alongside a Search and Evaluation Lead from Pfizer, who navigated the data room from a buy-side perspective. When he reflects on lessons learned from the process, LaMasters emphasizes the importance of collaboration with his counterpoint. Speaking about the data room, LeMasters said: “This asset sits between the two sides, but the sell-side controls it. I’m either using chips with this guy cause I’m having problems with the system, or I’m gaining them because the system is working great.” In this case, Amplyx was gaining chips.
Thinking about future deals, LaMasters said he would continue to place consideration on what data room tools would be specifically useful to buy-side users. Firmex’s Q&A feature is one he thinks buyers would appreciate, and he’s curious to try implementing it on his
LaMasters also highlighted another reason why he’ll continue to promote the use of a Firmex subscription, and that’s its value as a presentation tool. Back in August 2020, as Amplyx began to market, they used their data room as part of their presentation tactics. LaMasters acknowledged how challenging it can be to even get buyers to take a look at what you’re offering, but said that in a virtual setting, it’s been much easier to do so. He’s optimistic that this trend will continue post-pandemic: “Firmex is now more of the storefront than ever before.”