Stephan Christgau, Amanda Hayward, Andreas Segerros and Magnus Persson (Eir Ventures)

A new ven­ture fund amid a pan­dem­ic? In the Nordics? Eir Ven­tures brings it on with €76M first close

From Phar­ma­cia and Lund­beck to No­vo Nordisk and As­traZeneca, the Nordic coun­tries have been the birth­place for some lega­cy phar­ma com­pa­nies. But for all that his­to­ry and rep­u­ta­tion, Stephan Christ­gau counts on­ly five spe­cial­ized life sci­ence in­vestors back­ing biotechs to­day.

That leaves plen­ty of room for Eir Ven­tures, a brand new ven­ture fund Christ­gau — one of the founders of No­vo Seeds — is launch­ing with three oth­er vet­er­an VCs.

Speak­ing to End­points News from Copen­hagen with fel­low man­ag­ing part­ner An­dreas Segerros, he spoke

“You have a num­ber of good clus­ters in the Nordic,” he said, point­ing to the south­ern Swe­den / east­ern Den­mark area known as the Medicon Val­ley, places like Gothen­burg, Stock­holm and even Oslo, Nor­way. “I would say the Nordic re­gion and the hotspots here are top three in Eu­rope. That may be a big word. But yes we have Ox­ford/Cam­bridge, and we maybe have the Paris area, but what we see here are some emerg­ing big list­ed com­pa­nies like Gen­mab and So­bi and so on.”

The in­creas­ing costs of do­ing busi­ness in the US hubs, Segerros added, are start­ing to get pro­hib­i­tive. Be it re­al es­tate, salary or drug de­vel­op­ment, you can do more with your dime in the ar­eas Eir Ven­tures will be op­er­at­ing.

As a re­sult, the firm ex­pects to take a “very mean­ing­ful role and an ac­tive own­er­ship po­si­tion” by putting in be­tween €5 mil­lion and €7 mil­lion, giv­ing them a range of 12 to 16 port­fo­lio com­pa­nies. The ide­al can­di­date will be a lit­tle be­yond dis­cov­ery stage, though Eir Ven­tures does want to in­clude a few lat­er-stage projects in the mix.

Around 5% of the fund — which might bal­loon in­to €100 mil­lion lat­er — will go to around 15 ul­tra ear­ly-stage op­por­tu­ni­ties they call “seedlings.”

“So it will be a con­vert­ible loan, a few hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, but will be cre­at­ed to fund sort of crit­i­cal killer ex­per­i­ments or oth­er crit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties that will make the com­pa­ny fund­able,” Christ­gau said.

Mag­nus Pers­son, who built up Swe­den’s Health­Cap to be one of the rare spe­cial­ist life sci­ence VC play­ers in the Nordics be­fore get­ting re­cruit­ed to The Col­umn Group’s San Fran­cis­co of­fice, is join­ing Christ­gau and Segerros as man­ag­ing part­ner. The trio has al­so wooed Aman­da Hay­ward to be a spe­cial part­ner out of Con­necti­cut while con­tin­u­ing her day job scout­ing new rare dis­ease drugs for Rally­bio.

Al­though Covid-19 has com­pli­cat­ed and de­layed things, caus­ing some be­liev­ers to with­draw, the four an­chor in­vestors are weath­er­ing the storm, the team said. They are Sam­in­vest, a ven­ture cap­i­tal com­pa­ny found­ed by the Swedish Gov­ern­ment, Væk­st­fonden, the Dan­ish state’s in­vest­ment fund, No­vo Hold­ings, as well as the Eu­ro­pean In­vest­ment Fund.

“Copen­hagen or Stock­holm is not Boston, and may nev­er be that,” Christ­gau al­lowed. “But if you go back 20 years, I was — maybe 30 years back. I was at Kendall Square and at that point in time, there was re­al­ly not [much] to write home about with re­gard to life sci­ence. So re­gions can de­vel­op. I’m not sit­ting here say­ing that we be­lieve that we’ll re­pro­duce Kendall Square, but we see a good tra­jec­to­ry of the life sci­ence in­dus­try here and we be­lieve this is the right place to be for a new ven­ture fund.”

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

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UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine -- so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

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J&J gets a fresh OK for es­ke­t­a­mine, but is it re­al­ly the game-chang­er for de­pres­sion Trump keeps tweet­ing about?

Backed by an enthusiastic set of tweets from President Trump and a landmark OK for depression, J&J scooped up a new approval from the FDA for Spravato today. But this latest advance will likely bring fresh scrutiny to a drug that’s spurred some serious questions about the data, as well as the price.

First, the approval.

Regulators stamped their OK on the use of Spravato — developed as esketamine, a nasal spray version of the party drug Special K or ketamine — for patients suffering from major depressive disorder with acute suicidal ideation or behavior.

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Igor Splawski (CureVac)

Cure­Vac nabs a top No­var­tis sci­en­tist for CSO slot as mR­NA vac­cines seize the spot­light

One of the key players in the race to develop a new mRNA vaccine to fight Covid-19 has reshuffled the top spots in the executive suite. And they’re bringing in a Novartis vet out of Harvard to spearhead their work on mRNA.

CureVac, which just filed for an IPO that’s still taking shape, has formally handed Franz-Werner Haas the CEO title, after giving it to him on an interim basis. And the still rather stealthy German biotech largely owned by billionaire Dietmar Hopp has recruited Igor Splawski as its chief scientific officer.

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President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

OWS' Mon­cef Slaoui lam­basts ‘in­sult­ing’ me­dia cov­er­age: 'How are you help­ing in this pan­dem­ic?'

Ten weeks into his job as the chief advisor of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui has found a new hurdle to the challenge of bringing a Covid-19 vaccine unprecedented speed: the media.

In an official podcast by the Department of Health and Human Services, Slaoui — a veteran of GlaxoSmithKline who came out of his retirement to take on the role, relinquishing several board directorships and selling shares in the process — counted himself naive in assuming that the press was aiming to inform.

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Bruce Hironaka, IgGenix CEO

IgGenix emerges from stealth with $10 mil­lion Se­ries A hop­ing to re-en­gi­neer al­ler­gic cas­cade

A little over six months after the FDA approved the first treatment for peanut allergies, a new biotech has emerged hoping to break through in a field that’s seen virtually no innovation.

IgGenix came out of stealth mode Tuesday morning, announcing a $10 million Series A round to get the company started. The California-based biotech aims to focus not just on peanuts, but all types of food allergies and related serious conditions by developing a platform that can interfere with the allergic cascade. Financing was led by Khosla Ventures and joined by Parker Ventures.

Tony Coles, Cerevel Therapeutics CEO

Adding $445M, Tony Coles and his big Pfiz­er neu­ro spin­out hitch a ride to Wall Street on Per­cep­tive’s SPAC

Two years ago, after Pfizer abruptly shut down its entire neuroscience division, Bain Capital bet $350 million that those assets were still worth something and packaged them into a new biotech: Cerevel Therapeutics. A year later, they got seasoned executive Tony Coles, who had recently jumped back into the C-suite of another neuroscience startup, to run the company.

Now Coles is steering Cerevel public, in what he says is the largest ever transaction of its kind. Cerevel has agreed to merge with Perceptive Advisors’ specialty acquisition company ARYA II. Between the roughly $125 million Perceptive raised through ARYA and an additional investment of $320 million Bain Capital, Perceptive and — yes, really — Pfizer, among others, Cerevel will now move forward with an added $445 million in its coffers.

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Rich Heyman (ARCH)

Rich Hey­man joins PMV Phar­ma, a p53 biotech, as it adds $70 mil­lion in Se­ries D

Less than a year after pulling in an impressive $62 million Series C round, PMV Pharma is back at it again.

The Cranbury, NJ-based biotech announced Monday an additional $70 million in Series D financing as it seeks to develop cancer therapies targeting p53 mutations. Additionally, PMV also introduced longtime biotech entrepreneur Rich Heyman as chairman of the board of directors.

“This financing provides PMV Pharma with the resources to expand our pipeline and to potentially advance multiple p53 therapies into the clinic,” said PMV president and CEO David Mack in a statement.

Covid-19 roundup: Eli Lil­ly retro­fits RVs for first-of-its-kind an­ti­body tri­al with NIH; Am­gen, Ab­b­Vie, Take­da team on a drug

Eli Lilly and the NIH are about to start a first-of-its-kind trial that researchers and developers have talked about for months as a way of providing temporary immunity to the most at-risk populations.

Lilly announced this morning that it will start a 2,400-person trial with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases to test whether its experimental Covid-19 neutralizing antibody can prevent people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from developing the disease. The idea, known as passive immunity, is that rather than waiting on a vaccine to induce people to develop antibodies, doctors can give them lab-grown antibodies. Ideally, those antibodies will either attack the new SARS-CoV-2 infection, if the patient has recently been exposed, or persist in the blood for several weeks and prevent infection or disease for that period.