$7.5B in emergency congressional coronavirus prep; Sickle cell biotech sets terms for IPO
→ Multiple outlets, including the Washington Post, are reporting that Congress is preparing to approve a $7.5 billion emergency coronavirus spending package. It’s not clear how much of that will go to drug and vaccine development, although the original — and much smaller — White House funding request included $1 billion for vaccines. The bill is reportedly likely to be introduced today and pass the House later this week, before heading to the Senate.
→ Imara, a genetic disorder biotech working on a drug for sickle cell, has set the terms for its IPO, planning to sell 4.5 million shares for $16 to $18 per share and a total raise of $76 million. The company is one of several hoping to treat sickle cell by causing the body to produce fetal hemoglobin, which doesn’t sickle even in patients with the disease. It’s an old idea that’s recently gained traction as other therapies emerge for a disease that went decades without any new treatments. Imara’s drug is in Phase II.
→ Alnylam has received approval to use its RNAi therapy Givlaari in the European Union as a treatment for the ultra-rare condition acute hepatic porphyria. GIVLAARI was approved in the US in November, the second drug Alnylam got past regulators after spending over a decade and a half developing its RNA interference technology. Although it will assuredly be cheaper in the EU, the company is charging $545,000 per year for the drug in the US.
→ A new biotech called Lipidio Pharmaceuticals has launched with a goal of targeting illnesses related to excess body weight, including NASH, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and anti-psychotic drug induced weight gain. The company said they closed a Series A, with investments from the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research and “several family offices and high networth individuals,” but did not disclose the amount raised. The company has several former Big Pharma execs on its board, including former Pfizer head of global R&D Nancy Hutson.
→ Genentech‘s Esbriet, first approved in the US in 2014 for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, has received FDA breakthrough status for unclassifiable interstitial lung disease. The designation was based on a Phase II trial that suggested Esbriet could slow the disease, which has no approved therapies. Interstitial lung disease is a cluster of over 200 rare pulmonary diseases. About 10% of patients can’t be diagnosed with one of the types and are designated as “unclassified.”