$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.

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; and more

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With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Sanofi scraps PhI­II tri­al for Prin­cip­ia drug af­ter re­view­ing com­pe­ti­tion

Months after the FDA placed Phase III trials of Sanofi’s BTK inhibitor on hold, the company is winding down one of the studies.

Sanofi reported in its Q4 earnings that the URSA study “was discontinued after careful evaluation of the emerging competitive treatment landscape in” myasthenia gravis, a rare disease that causes muscle weakness.

The Phase III, placebo-controlled trial was testing tolebrutinib in patients with the moderate-to-severe form of the disease. It started in late 2021, according to records on clinicaltrials.gov, and was originally designed to recruit 154 participants who were receiving the standard of care.

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Raymond Stevens, Structure Therapeutics CEO

Be­hind Fri­day's $161M IPO: A star sci­en­tist, GPCR drug dis­cov­ery and a plan to chal­lenge phar­ma in di­a­betes

What does it take to pull off a $161 million biotech IPO these days?

In Structure Therapeutics’ case, it means having a star scientist co-founder paired with the computational drug discovery company Schrödinger, $198 million in private funding from blue-chip investors, almost six years of research work on G protein-coupled receptors and a slate of oral, small-molecule drugs, with an eye on the huge and growing diabetes and weight-loss market.

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Af­ter 13 years, Ramy Mah­moud steps in­to CEO seat at Opti­nose; Ru­pert Vessey set to ex­it Bris­tol My­ers in Ju­ly

After 13 years as president and COO at Optinose, Ramy Mahmoud has stepped into a new role as its CEO. He is taking the place of Peter Miller, who stepped down earlier this week, though Miller is still staying with the company as a consultant.

In 2010, the two business partners joined Optinose to take it in a new direction, transforming it from a delivery platform to product company. They previously worked together at Johnson & Johnson, when Miller was president at Janssen and Mahmoud headed medical affairs. Miller said after he learned about Optinose, “I did what I always do, which is find people smarter than me to talk with about the idea. And the first person I called was Ramy … and I said, ‘Hey, Ramy, what do you think of this technology?’”

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Ma­gen­ta halts stem cell work and may sell it­self fol­low­ing pa­tient death, clin­i­cal hold

Magenta Therapeutics said it is halting work on its stem cell transplant drug pipeline and may sell itself, a week after the company reported the death of a patient in an early stage trial of its antibody-drug conjugate.

The Cambridge, MA-based company said it will conduct a “review of strategic alternatives,” and that could include an “acquisition, merger, business combination, or other transaction.”

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How to use ex­ter­nal con­trols: FDA spells out think­ing in new draft guid­ance

The use of real-world evidence to inform the FDA’s decision-making continues apace, with the agency releasing new draft guidance yesterday on how sponsors can compare outcomes of trial participants receiving a test treatment with outcomes in a group of people external to the trial.

The practice of externally controlled trials is common, particularly in oncology or other difficult areas where it’s not ethical or feasible to use internal controls.

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The Big Phar­ma axe: Mer­ck cuts chikun­gun­ya vax, Bris­tol My­ers drops Cy­tomX-part­nered pro­gram, and more

As fourth quarter earnings come in, Big Pharmas are disclosing changes to their pipelines during their investor calls, and sometimes more quietly in presentation appendices.

Merck dropped its chikungunya vaccine candidate, which completed a Phase II study. Merck acquired the vaccine through its purchase of Themis Bioscience in 2020. In developing a vaccine for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus, Valneva is the frontrunner, as it submitted its vaccine to the FDA at the end of December.

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