$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.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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NYU surgeon transplants an engineered pig kidney into the outside of a brain-dead patient (Joe Carrotta/NYU Langone Health)

No, sci­en­tists are not any clos­er to pig-to-hu­man trans­plants than they were last week

Steve Holtzman was awoken by a 1 a.m. call from a doctor at Duke University asking if he could put some pigs on a plane and fly them from Ohio to North Carolina that day. A motorcyclist had gotten into a horrific crash, the doctor explained. He believed the pigs’ livers, sutured onto the patient’s skin like an external filter, might be able to tide the young man over until a donor liver became available.

Robert Califf (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Images, File)

As buzz on Califf FDA nom heats up, in­dus­try and agency in­sid­ers of­fer a strong nod for the ‘per­fect’ choice

For once in this long, dramatic road to finding a new FDA commissioner, there’s been some continuity. Both CNN and Politico reported this weekend that Rob Califf met with President Biden to discuss the permanent commish role, following earlier news broken by the Washington Post that all signs point to Califf.

Although there may be a few Democrats who continue to grandstand about the dangers of COI (Califf has worked for Verily, sits on the board of Centessa Pharmaceuticals, and has other ties to industry research), with the pandemic ongoing and the need for some kind of continuity at FDA mounting, Califf is likely to meet the same fate as when he first won Senate confirmation in 2016, by a vote of 89-4 — Bernie Sanders and 6 others didn’t vote.

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AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot (Raphael Lafargue/Abaca/Sipa USA)

A com­bo of As­traZeneca's Imfinzi and chemo wins where oth­ers have failed in piv­otal bil­iary tract test

Looking to run with the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 class, AstraZeneca’s Imfinzi has a tall hill to climb to compete in an increasingly bustling market. An aggressive combo strategy for the drug has paid off so far, and now AstraZeneca is adding another notch to its belt.

A combo of Imfinzi (durvalumab) and chemotherapy significantly extended the lives of first-line patients with advanced biliary tract cancer over chemo alone, according to topline results from the Phase III TOPAZ-1 study revealed Monday.

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Sean Ianchulev, Eyenovia CEO and CMO

Re­cent court de­ci­sion push­es FDA to re­ject and re­clas­si­fy drug-de­vice com­bo, crush­ing shares

Back in April, the FDA lost a crucial court case in which its broad discretion of regulating medical products that might satisfy the legal definitions of either “drug” and/or “medical device” was sharply curtailed.

In addition to the appeals court ruling that Genus Medical Technologies’ contrast agent barium sulfate (aka Vanilla SilQ) should not be considered a drug, as the FDA had initially ruled, but as a medical device, the agency also was forced to spell out which drugs would transition to devices as a result of the ruling.

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Joan Butterton, Merck Research Laboratories VP of global clinical development, infectious diseases (Merck)

Mer­ck­'s ex­per­i­men­tal HIV drug is­la­travir hits with a PhI­II com­bo win and FDA fil­ing plans

Back in March, Merck and Gilead agreed to a partnership to challenge GlaxoSmithKline on long-acting HIV meds — by combining one drug from both Merck and Gilead that had shown potential. While Gilead brought its capsid inhibitor lenacapavir, Merck brought islatravir into the deal — a small molecule that the pharma acquired in 2012 from a small Japanese firm.

While that partnership is ongoing, islatravir is coming out of 2 Phase III pivotal trials with back-to-back successes and plans to beat a quick advance to the FDA.

Gil Beyen, Erytech CEO

A transat­lantic biotech flags a painful PhI­II can­cer flop, wav­ing a white flag

More than 4 years after little Erytech inflated some rare passion for its stock with upbeat Phase IIb data for their lead drug in pancreatic cancer, they’ve let the air out of the party balloons.

The transatlantic biotech $ERYP put the word out Monday morning that its drug eryaspase flopped in a Phase III pivotal for second line metastatic pancreatic cancer, slamming its stock, which plunged more than 30%.

Preston Klassen, Metacrine CEO

An­oth­er NASH play­er re­treats from bat­tered field af­ter tox­i­col­o­gy study flags po­ten­tial de­lay

NASH, the notorious liver disease afflicting an increasing number of Americans, has always been the focus at Metacrine ever since serial entrepreneur Rich Heyman unveiled the first round of financing all the way back in 2015.

Not anymore.

The San Diego-based biotech is halting its NASH program and choosing instead to prioritize its effort in pushing the same FXR agonist, MET642, into a Phase II trial for inflammatory bowel disease.