6 Di­men­sions backs Lyv­gen's $30M B round; No­var­tis hands off glob­al rights to IL-2 drug

→ Shang­hai’s im­muno-on­col­o­gy drug­mak­er Lyv­gen Bio­phar­ma has scored a $30 mil­lion B round led by one of Chi­na’s most ac­tive biotech VCs — 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal. Join­ing the round are new in­vestors Win­fair Glob­al and Run­ling Cap­i­tal, along with ex­ist­ing back­ers from the A round Morn­ing­side Ven­tures. Lyv­gen has an an­ti­body plat­form and an ear­ly pipeline, in­clud­ing a PD-1 an­ti­body and a set of pro­pri­etary ag­o­nist an­ti­bod­ies.

→ Clin­i­cal and com­mer­cial ser­vice provider Clin­i­gen has picked up ex-US glob­al rights to No­var­tis’ Pro­leukin, a re­com­bi­nant in­ter­leukin-2 ther­a­py pri­mar­i­ly in­di­cat­ed for use in metasta­t­ic re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma, and for metasta­t­ic melanoma in some of the 20 mar­kets it’s li­censed in. Fi­nan­cial de­tails of the deal deal were not dis­closed; Clin­i­gen said it will in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial com­bos for the drug and seek to re­vi­tal­ize sales — a fig­ure around $80 mil­lion for the past cou­ple of years. “This ac­qui­si­tion strength­ens our of­fer­ing in Com­mer­cial Med­i­cines and brings our spe­cial­ty phar­ma prod­uct port­fo­lio to six,” said CEO Shaun Chilton.

→ In yet an­oth­er ef­fort to stave off gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion for its block­buster Hu­mi­ra, Ab­b­Vie $AB­BV has struck a deal with My­lan, which has agreed to be­gin sell­ing its biosim­i­lar in the US on Ju­ly 31, 2023 — a month af­ter Sam­sung Bioepis and Mer­ck will un­veil theirs, and six months af­ter Am­gen’s knock­off will hit the mar­kets. Based on the deal, My­lan will pay roy­al­ties to Ab­b­Vie for li­cens­ing the Hu­mi­ra patents once its biosim­i­lar is launched.

→ Seat­tle biotech Presage Bio­sciences added some fresh cap­i­tal to its cof­fers Tues­day, al­low­ing the can­cer com­pa­ny to work on the de­sign of a de­vice it cre­at­ed to con­duct its ear­ly clin­i­cal work. The com­pa­ny makes a mi­croin­jec­tor and drug load­ing de­vice, cou­pled with flu­o­res­cent track­ing mi­cros­pheres, that they use to in­ject pa­tients with small dos­es of in­ves­ti­ga­tion­al drugs. The de­vice is de­signed to al­low the dos­ing to be high­ly lo­cal­ized on a pa­tient’s tu­mor. Presage is call­ing it the CI­VO plat­form, and they say this small $6 mil­lion Se­ries D round — led by Take­da and Cel­gene — will push its de­vel­op­ment for­ward.

At the same time, Presage an­nounced its CSO Rich Kling­hof­fer is tak­ing over as CEO, while for­mer CEO Nathan Caf­fo steps in­to an ad­vi­so­ry role. “When Nathan and I joined Presage as the first two em­ploy­ees of the com­pa­ny, it was be­cause we rec­og­nized the trans­for­ma­tive po­ten­tial of the CI­VO plat­form to en­able faster proof-of-con­cept stud­ies for ear­ly stage drug can­di­dates,” Kling­hof­fer said in a state­ment. “Giv­en the well-known lack of trans­la­tion of an­i­mal mod­els to the hu­man clin­ic, we are ex­cit­ed to pro­vide an ap­proach that al­lows our part­ners to test as­sets in the con­text where they are ul­ti­mate­ly in­tend­ed to be used – the hu­man can­cer pa­tient.”

Aque­s­tive Ther­a­peu­tics, the man­u­fac­tur­er-turned drug de­vel­op­er mak­ing oral film for­mu­la­tions of CNS dis­ease treat­ments, set­tled on a price range of $14 to $16 for its IPO. All told, the War­ren, NJ-based com­pa­ny ex­pects to raise $60 mil­lion to fund com­mer­cial­iza­tion of sev­er­al late-stage prod­ucts as well as clin­i­cal tri­als for two pre­clin­i­cal as­sets. Among them Sym­pa­zan (AQST-120), a for­mu­la­tion of clobazam used to treat Lennox-Gas­taut syn­drome, has been filed for ap­proval and will po­ten­tial­ly join the group of two prod­ucts that Aque­s­tive is al­ready mar­ket­ing with part­ners. The com­pa­ny plans to list un­der the sym­bol $AQST.

Brent Saunders [Getty Photos]

UP­DAT­ED: Ab­b­Vie seals $63B deal to buy a trou­bled Al­ler­gan — spelling out $1B in R&D cuts

Brent Saunders has found his way out of the current fix he’s in at Allergan $AGN. He’s selling the company to AbbVie for $63 billion in the latest example of the hot M&A market in biopharma.

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SQZ, Ery­tech kick off $57M cell ther­a­py part­ner­ship; Jean-Paul Kress lands new CEO gig at Mor­phoSys

→ In a mar­riage of two tech­nolo­gies meant to make cell ther­a­pies more pow­er­ful, SQZ Biotech is team­ing up with France’s Ery­tech Phar­ma for a col­lab­o­ra­tion, with $57 mil­lion re­served for the first project and $50 mil­lion for each sub­se­quent ap­proval (prod­uct or in­di­ca­tion). Hav­ing ac­cess to Ery­tech’s method of fash­ion­ing ther­a­peu­tics from red blood cells, the Cam­bridge, MA-based com­pa­ny said, will am­pli­fy SQZ’s cell en­gi­neer­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and al­low them to de­vleop a new class of im­munomod­u­la­to­ry ther­a­pies. Its own tech — so far ap­plied in can­cer but al­so has po­ten­tial in di­a­betes — tem­po­rary dis­rupts the cell mem­brane by squeez­ing the cell, thus cre­at­ing a brief win­dow for tar­get ma­te­ri­als such as anti­gens to en­ter.

Richard Gonzalez testifying in front of Senate Finance Committee, February 2019 [AP Images]

Ab­b­Vie's $63B buy­out spot­lights the re­turn of ma­jor M&A deals — de­spite the back­lash

Big time M&A is back. But for how long?

Over the past 18 months we’ve now seen three ma­jor buy­outs an­nounced: Take­da/Shire; Bris­tol-My­ers/Cel­gene and now Ab­b­Vie/Al­ler­gan. And with this lat­est deal it’s in­creas­ing­ly clear that the sharp fall from grace suf­fered by high-pro­file play­ers which have seen their share prices blast­ed has cre­at­ed an open­ing for the growth play­ers in big phar­ma to up their game — in sharp con­trast to the pop­u­lar bolt-on deals that have been dri­ving the growth strat­e­gy at No­var­tis, Mer­ck, Roche and oth­ers.

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UP­DAT­ED: In sur­prise switch, Bris­tol-My­ers is sell­ing off block­buster Ote­zla, promis­ing to com­plete Cel­gene ac­qui­si­tion — just lat­er

Apart from revealing its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo blew a big liver cancer study on Monday, Bristol-Myers Squibb said its plans to swallow Celgene will require the sale of blockbuster psoriasis treatment Otezla to keep the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at bay.

The announcement — which has potentially delayed the completion of the takeover to early 2020 — irked investors, triggering the New York-based drugmaker’s shares to tumble Monday morning in premarket trading.

Celgene’s Otezla, approved in 2014 for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, is a rising star. It generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year, up from the nearly $1.3 billion in 2017. Apart from the partial overlap of Bristol-Myers injectable Orencia, the company’s rival oral TYK2 psoriasis drug is in late-stage development, after the firm posted encouraging mid-stage data on the drug, BMS-986165, last fall. With Monday’s decision, it appears Bristol-Myers is favoring its experimental drug, and discounting Otezla’s future.

The move blindsided some analysts. Credit Suisse’s Vamil Divan noted just days ago:

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Novotech CEO Dr. John Moller

Novotech CRO Award­ed Frost & Sul­li­van Best Biotech CRO Asia-Pa­cif­ic 2019

Known in the in­dus­try as the Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO, Novotech is now lead CRO ser­vices provider for the grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al biotechs se­lect­ing the re­gion for their stud­ies.

Re­flect­ing this Asia-Pa­cif­ic growth, Novotech staff num­bers are up 20% since De­cem­ber 2018 to 600 in-house clin­i­cal re­search peo­ple across a full range of ser­vices, across the re­gion.

Novotech’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties have been rec­og­nized by an­a­lysts like Frost & Sul­li­van, most re­cent­ly with the pres­ti­gious Asia-Pa­cif­ic CRO Biotech of the year award for best prac­tices in clin­i­cal re­search for biotechs for the fifth year. See oth­er awards here.

FDA re­jects Ac­er's rare dis­ease drug, asks for new tri­al — shares crater

Ac­er Ther­a­peu­tics’ bid to re­pur­pose celipro­lol — a be­ta-block­er on the mar­ket for hy­per­ten­sion — as a treat­ment for a rare, in­her­it­ed con­nec­tive tis­sue dis­or­der has hit a se­vere set­back. The New­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts-based com­pa­ny on Tues­day said the FDA re­ject­ed the drug and has asked for an­oth­er clin­i­cal tri­al.

The com­pa­ny’s shares $AC­ER cratered near­ly 77% to $4.47 in Tues­day morn­ing trad­ing.

Tasly Bio­phar­ma pitch­es long-await­ed IPO — will it trig­ger an­oth­er $1B gold rush on HKEX?

In the run up to the Hong Kong stock ex­change’s an­tic­i­pat­ed rule change — open­ing the door for Chi­nese pre-rev­enue biotechs to go pub­lic clos­er to home — more than a year ago, Tasly Bio­phar­ma was one of the big play­ers whose ru­mored in­ter­est helped stoke en­thu­si­asm for the new list­ing venue. The com­pa­ny has since kept the drum­roll rum­bling in the back­ground, rais­ing a pre-IPO round and con­vinc­ing part­ner Trans­gene to swap own­er­ship in a joint ven­ture for eq­ui­ty. Now the oth­er shoe has fi­nal­ly dropped as ex­ecs out­line plans for a pipeline dom­i­nat­ed by car­dio­vas­cu­lar drugs.

With 4 more biotech IPOs due to wrap up Q2, how is the class of 2019 far­ing?

With 22 biotech IPOs on the books and four more set to price in the last week of June, in­vest­ment ad­vis­er Re­nais­sance Cap­i­tal has tak­en the pulse of the re­cent rush.

By the IPO ex­perts’ count, 25 out of 32 health­care of­fer­ings this year have been from biotechs — dif­fer­ing slight­ly from Brad Lon­car’s tal­ly — and the over­all pic­ture is one of un­der­per­for­mance. While they av­er­aged a first-day re­turn of 9.0%, col­lec­tive­ly they have trad­ed down to a 5.9% re­turn. Turn­ing Point $TP­TX and Cor­texyme $CRTX emerged on top at the half-year mark, ris­ing 135% and 109% re­spec­tive­ly.

Eye­ing a $500M peak sales pot, Almi­rall dou­bles down on le­brik­izum­ab as Der­mi­ra lines up PhI­II

With eyes on what it be­lieves is a $500 mil­lion peak rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ty in Eu­rope, Barcelona-based Almi­rall has stepped up with $50 mil­lion in cash to take up the op­tion on Der­mi­ra’s IL-13 an­ti-in­flam­ma­to­ry drug le­brik­izum­ab just ahead of the start of Phase III. And there’s an­oth­er $30 mil­lion due as the late-stage pro­gram gets geared up.

That shouldn’t be long from now, as Der­mi­ra ex­pects to be­gin the late-stage tri­al work for atopic der­mati­tis be­fore the end of this year as it fol­lows a trail that ex­ecs in­sist leads to block­buster re­turns. Along the way, they’ll need to take on the 600-pound go­ril­la in atopic der­mati­tis: the IL-13/IL-4 drug Dupix­ent, from Re­gen­eron and Sanofi. Ri­vals al­so in­clude Leo Phar­ma, in its piv­otal with tralok­izum­ab, and Anap­tys­Bio in the hunt with a mid-stage pro­gram for etokimab, pre­vi­ous­ly re­ferred to as ANB020.