23andMe finds a buyer for its IL-36 bispecific in Almirall; Neurocrine, Idorsia revise epilepsy drug deal
→ The first fruits of 23andMe’s efforts to generate new drugs off the insights it gained from a massive amount of genetic data are taking shape, and Almirall is signing up to ripen one of them. The Spanish dermatology drugmaker has licensed a bispecific antibody that blocks three cytokines in the IL-36 cytokine family, which are tied to skin conditions such as psoriasis and lupus, in addition to other inflammatory ailments such as ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease.
“As a leader in medical dermatology, we felt Almirall was the best company to take this program forward and ultimately develop an effective therapy for patients,” Kenneth Hillan, who succeeded Genentech vet Richard Scheller as head of therapeutics at 23andMe, said in a statement.
While it started out as a direct-to-consumer testing service, 23andMe has moved deeper into the therapeutic space in recent years, most notably through a $300 million partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.
→ We now know the identity of Idorsia’s mystery partner from last year. The Swiss biotech — spun out from J&J’s Actelion buyout — had announced that it pocketed a $5 million payment from an undisclosed party to score a licensing option on ACT-709478, a brain penetrating T-type calcium channel blocker. Now we learn that Neurocrine will pay $45 million if it exercises the option and up to $365 million in milestones.
“We are excited to leverage the scientific expertise of Idorsia in T-type calcium channel inhibition to potentially advance a Phase 2 ready compound to help people suffering from epilepsy. In addition to the treatment of epilepsy, the modulation of the calcium channel may be useful for the treatment of other disorders such as essential tremor and pain,” Kevin Gorman, the CEO at Neurocrine, said in a statement.
→ PhaseBio has found a deep-pocketed believer in its blood thinner reversal agent: SFJ Pharmaceuticals, which has offered up to $120 million to support the clinical development of PB2452. First licensed from AstraZeneca, the “breakthrough” drug is designed to cancel the effects of ticagrelor, an anticoagulant, in urgent or surgical situations. Backed by Blackstone Life Sciences and Abingworth, SFJ will also take over the bulk of the clinical and regulatory work outside of the US. In exchange, PhaseBio will pay annual lump sums once (and if) they win approvals.
→ Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and Dutch investor PPF are leading a $22 million Series C round for Basel, Switzerland-based NBE Therapeutics to bankroll early clinical trials of its lead asset. Riding on renewed enthusiasm for antibody-drug conjugates, NBE said their platform tech is both more powerful and safer than the earlier generations of ADC, being immune-stimulatory and employing an anthracycline payload. NBE-002 targets ROR1 in triple-negative breast cancer and lung cancer, to be followed by other solid cancer types and lymphomas.
→ While awaiting an FDA decision on its second shot at an approval, Acacia Pharma has in-licensed a short-acting, reversible intravenous sedative/anesthetic from Cosmo Pharma. The €10 million upfront payment will take the form of an equity sale, with another €30 million due upon US approval of the drug, ByFavo, and more commercial milestones. “Having a second product that shares the same calling points and attractive commercial message as Barhemsys will make the investment in our sales and marketing teams more efficient,” CEO Mike Bolinder said in a statement.
→ Eye-focused gene therapy developer Eyevensys has scored $30 million in Series B funding with the help of lead investor Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. Pontifax, Bpifrance, CapDecisif, Inserm Transfert, the Global Health Sciences Fund and Pureos Bioventures also joined to boost their R&D efforts, featuring a lead Phase II-ready program for chronic non-infectious uveitis.
→ The cell therapy experts at Jasper Therapeutics have brought in an extra $14.1 million for their Series A, adding Roche Venture Fund to their roster of marquee investors. The new cash will help expand the lead clinical program, a CD117-targeted antibody conceived as an alternative conditioning regimen before stem cell transplants.
→ Following the close of its $1 billion-plus second fund, GHO Capital Partners has acquired Belgian CDMO Ardena, which is focused on early-stage drug development, from Mentha Capital.