$95M mega-round in hand, Elaine Sul­li­van sets out to build a Eu­ro­pean on­col­o­gy play­er

Elaine Sul­li­van, CEO, Car­rick Ther­a­peu­tics

A trans-At­lantic in­vest­ment syn­di­cate that in­cludes Google has come to­geth­er to bankroll a Eu­ro­pean on­col­o­gy start­up with a $95 mil­lion mega-round. And the biotech, helmed by ex­pe­ri­enced phar­ma R&D ex­ec Elaine Sul­li­van, has al­ready lined up three de­vel­op­ment pro­grams with plans to add more in the very near fu­ture.

The big idea here has less to do with any one pro­gram and sci­en­tif­ic founder than it has to do with the con­ti­nen­tal-sized part­ner­ing as­pi­ra­tions at Car­rick Ther­a­peu­tics.

“I want­ed to set up a Eu­ro­pean on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny,” Sul­li­van tells me this morn­ing, with­out a hint of brag­gado­cio. “The whole con­cept of the com­pa­ny was to link a num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tors to­geth­er to cre­ate a syn­er­gy around the com­pa­ny.”

That’s the kind of big-pic­ture think­ing that Arch Ven­ture Part­ners, in par­tic­u­lar, loves to en­gage in. Neil Wood­ford’s Wood­ford In­vest­ments, which co-led the round with Arch, was found­ed on the no­tion that Eu­rope in gen­er­al and the UK in par­tic­u­lar has been bet­ter at sci­ence than the art of in­vest­ing in sci­ence. And GV (Google Ven­tures to you and me) jumped in along with Cam­bridge En­ter­prise Seed Funds, Cam­bridge In­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal, Evotec AG and Light­stone Ven­tures.

“What we saw, Arch and our­selves,” adds Sul­li­van, “was amaz­ing sci­ence in Eu­rope that was un­der­cap­i­tal­ized.”

Sul­li­van is stay­ing pur­pose­ful­ly vague right now about the biotech’s plans, but that’s not for lack of strate­gic think­ing. The As­traZeneca and Eli Lil­ly vet­er­an says the biotech, which will be based in Dublin with R&D ops in Ire­land and Ox­ford, al­ready has close ties with not­ed sci­en­tif­ic in­ves­ti­ga­tor Steve Jack­son at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge and Can­cer Re­search UK. More are be­ing put in place.

On­col­o­gy deals have been all the rage on both sides of the At­lantic for the past three years, as new drugs rip through the clin­ic at record speeds. But Car­rick be­lieves it’s in the right spot to put to­geth­er a no­table pipeline in lit­tle time.

The com­pa­ny is work­ing with a staff of 45, says Sul­li­van, which can eas­i­ly be scaled up as the pipeline fills out. And she says she’ll be a lot more forth­com­ing af­ter a few more months of col­lab­o­ra­tion build­ing, when the com­pa­ny can de­tail the mech­a­nisms it’s fo­cused on as well as the drugs it has in both clin­i­cal as well as pre-clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

I plan to take her up on that of­fer.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Demis Hassabis, DeepMind CEO (Qianlong/Imaginechina via AP Images)

Google's Deep­Mind opens its pro­tein data­base to sci­ence — po­ten­tial­ly crack­ing drug R&D wide open

Nearly a year ago, Google’s AI outfit DeepMind announced they had cracked one of the oldest problems in biology: predicting a protein’s structure from its sequence alone. Now they’ve turned that software on nearly every human protein and hundreds of thousands of additional proteins from organisms important to medical research, such as fruit flies, mice and malaria parasite.

The new database of roughly 350,000 protein sequences and structures represents a potentially monumental achievement for the life sciences, one that could hasten new biological insights and the development of new drugs. DeepMind said it will be free and accessible to all researchers and companies.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis dis­cards one of its ‘wild card’ drugs af­ter it flops in key study. But it takes one more for the hand

Always remember just how risky it is to gamble big on small studies.

A little more than 4 years ago, Novartis reportedly put up a package worth up to $1 billion for the dry eye drug ECF843 after a small biotech called Lubris put it through its paces in a tiny study of 40 moderate to severe patients, tracking some statistically significant markers of efficacy.

By last fall, the program had risen up to become one of CEO Vas Narasimhan’s top “wild card” programs in line for a potential breakthrough year in 2021. These drugs were all considered high-risk, high-reward efforts. And in this case, risk won.

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6 top drug­mak­ers of­fer per­spec­tives on FDA's new co­vari­ates in RCTs guid­ance

Back in May, the FDA revised and expanded a 2019 draft guidance that spells out how to adjust for covariates in the statistical analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Building on the ICH’s E9 guideline on the statistical principles for clinical trials, the 3-page draft was transformed into an 8-page draft, with more detailed recommendations on linear and nonlinear models to analyze the efficacy endpoints in RCTs.

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In­side Bio­gen's scram­ble to sell Aduhelm: Pro­ject 'Javelin' and pres­sure to ID as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble

In anticipation of Aduhelm’s approval for Alzheimer’s in June, Biogen employees were directed to identify and guarantee treatment centers would administer the drug through a program called “Javelin,” a senior Biogen employee told Endpoints News.

The program identified about 800 centers for use, he said, and Biogen now pays for the use of bioassays to identify beta amyloid in potential patients having undergone a lumbar puncture procedure, the employee said — and one center preparing to administer the drug confirmed its participation in the bioassay program.

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EMA re­jects FDA-ap­proved Parkin­son's drug, signs off on Mod­er­na vac­cine use in ado­les­cents ahead of FDA

The European Medicines Agency on Friday rejected Kyowa Kirin’s Parkinson’s disease drug Nouryant (istradefylline), which the US FDA approved in 2019 under the brand name Nourianz.

EMA said it considered that the results of the clinical studies used to support the application “were inconsistent and did not satisfactorily show that Nouryant was effective at reducing the ‘off’ time. Only four out of the eight studies showed a reduction in ‘off’ time, and the effect did not increase with an increased dose of Nouryant.”

Laurent Fischer, Adverum CEO

Ad­verum faces murky fu­ture af­ter re­view turns up deep­er safe­ty is­sues for gene ther­a­py

Three months after revealing that a patient lost significant vision in one eye after receiving its experimental gene therapy, Adverum announced it found the safety issues were more widespread: Five of 12 patients who received a high dose of the therapy saw “similar clinically-relevant events.”

Three required surgery on their treated eye. And all 12 are being recommended “aggressive immunomodulatory treatments” to prevent further injury.

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Al Sandrock, Biogen R&D chief (Biogen via YouTube)

Bio­gen has a shaky end to H1 with a $542M write-off adding to its woes — but an­a­lysts see big rev­enue ahead for Aduhelm

All eyes at Biogen’s Q2 earnings call Thursday were on Aduhelm, but investors also got a glimpse of what Biogen would have faced had the FDA not opted to approve their controversial Alzheimer’s drug.

That glimpse, revealing a combination of declining sales, growing competition and failed medicines, underscores the stakes of the big biotech’s Aduhelm efforts, as execs punch back at the criticism they’ve engendered in the political and medical world and vigorously pushes its sales staff to roll out the drug as fast as possible.

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Mol­e­c­u­lar Di­ag­nos­tics Can Trans­form Can­cer Care. Let’s Make It Hap­pen.

Like so many people around the world, my life has been profoundly shaped by cancer. Those personal experiences, along with a deep love of clinical laboratory science and a passion to apply the power of genomics in medicine, motivated me to launch a company that would improve cancer care through better diagnostics. Thirteen years later, I am proud that we are delivering more accurate information at multiple points along the patient journey, with a focus on eight of the 10 cancers that are most commonly diagnosed in the United States.