A quiver of ar­rows for im­mune dis­or­ders: Pan­dion scores $80M in fresh fund­ing

Sci­en­tists be­gan with mak­ing re­com­bi­nant ver­sions of nat­u­ral­ly-oc­cur­ring hu­man pro­teins, then grad­u­at­ed to mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies. Now, rather than repli­cat­ing moi­eties with­in the body, re­searchers are mod­i­fy­ing these mol­e­cules to have pre­cise bi­ol­o­gy in a func­tion­al man­ner.

This tech­nol­o­gy, re­ferred to as bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies, is al­ready be­ing em­ployed to fight can­cer. In ear­ly 2018, Pan­dion Ther­a­peu­tics was born to re­verse-en­gi­neer the sci­ence in­to the realm of au­toim­mune and in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­or­ders.

Rahul Kakkar

Mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies are de­signed to in­hib­it a path­way, but Pan­dion is tak­ing a mol­e­cule that the body cre­ates, and en­gi­neer­ing it for the bi­ol­o­gy that we want, said com­pa­ny chief Rahul Kakkar in an in­ter­view.

As the com­pa­ny shep­herds its lead ther­a­py in­to pa­tients, on Wednes­day it raised a meaty $80 mil­lion in a fresh round of fi­nanc­ing.

Pan­dion, which counts Astel­las as a part­ner, has cre­at­ed com­po­nents that can be mixed and matched to cre­ate mol­e­cules that have both the bi­o­log­ic and the chem­i­cal ther­a­peu­tic prop­er­ties that we want, Kakkar ex­plained.

“The way I like to think about it is our mol­e­cules rep­re­sent ar­rows, with­in a quiver of ar­rows that rep­re­sents our pipeline,” he said. “So each of these ar­rows has an ar­row­head. The ar­row­head is an en­gi­neered vari­ant of some­thing our bod­ies nat­u­ral­ly use to con­trol the im­mune sys­tem.”

The ar­row­head in the com­pa­ny’s lead pro­gram — PT101 — is a mu­tat­ed vari­ant of in­ter­leukin two. Nat­u­ral­ly, the body us­es IL-2 to ex­pand reg­u­la­to­ry T cells and to en­hance con­ven­tion­al pro-in­flam­ma­to­ry T cells. Pan­dion’s IL-2 two has been en­gi­neered to be high­ly spe­cif­ic for reg­u­la­to­ry T cells, but to have no ef­fect on the oth­er cells. The ther­a­py is cur­rent­ly be­ing eval­u­at­ed in healthy vol­un­teers — and if all goes well, come 2021, the com­pound will be test­ed in ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis pa­tients.

The ar­row­head is in charge of the bi­ol­o­gy, but the tail gives the ar­row­head phar­ma­cother­a­peu­tic prop­er­ties that we want. “So we can mar­ry an FC fu­sion, for in­stance, which gives half-life ex­ten­sion, so then that ar­row­head re­sides with­in the sys­temic cir­cu­la­tion, has sys­temic im­mune-mod­u­la­to­ry prop­er­ties and be­haves like an in­jectable bi­o­log­ic,” Kakkar said.

The next junc­ture, which Pan­dion has un­der de­vel­op­ment, is cre­at­ing a bi­func­tion­al or bis­pe­cif­ic, so the tail end ac­tu­al­ly has a func­tion, rather than just half-life ex­ten­sion.

“That tail…is de­signed as a teth­er or a dock, where it binds the ar­row­head with­in an or­gan of in­ter­est so we can, there­fore, guide the ar­row­head in­to spe­cif­ic or­gan sys­tems,” Kakkar said. “So, for in­stance, we can guide it in­to the be­ta cells of the pan­creas, which is where our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Astel­las fo­cus­es.”

The word Pan­dion is the genus name for the os­prey (or a sea hawk), a brown-and-white bird of prey. Spread­ing its wings, it swoops down to wa­ter sur­faces to seize un­sus­pect­ing fish us­ing its talons. “The im­age of a very pre­cise hit with wing­spread ba­si­cal­ly looks like an an­ti­body bind­ing to a very spe­cif­ic lo­cal­iza­tion in ge­og­ra­phy and so that’s ex­act­ly what our mol­e­cules do par­tic­u­lar­ly in the bis­pe­cif­ic for­mat,” said Kakkar.

The Se­ries B was led by Ac­cess Biotech­nol­o­gy, Box­er Cap­i­tal, RA Cap­i­tal and Or­biMed and in­clud­ed the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Po­laris Part­ners, Ver­sant Ven­tures, Roche Ven­ture Fund, SR One, JDRF T1D Fund and BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal. The Boston-based start­up raised $58 mil­lion in Jan­u­ary 2018.

De­spite the dis­rup­tions faced by the on­go­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, since the biotech in­dus­try is con­sid­ered es­sen­tial in Boston, the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to work on its com­pounds, al­though all non-lab per­son­nel are work­ing re­mote­ly.

“Frankly speak­ing, the need of pa­tients suf­fer­ing from au­toim­mune dis­ease con­tin­ues and so as long as that need is there, we con­tin­ue to be fo­cused on ex­e­cut­ing on our goals,” Kakkar said.

That be­ing said, work­ing from home is hard­ly a walk in the park. ” I think we’re all sup­port­ing each oth­er as best we can, but I think it’s a chal­lenge for every­one.”

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

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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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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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.

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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Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.

Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos (L) and CEO Len Schleifer at a groundbreaking for its new Tarrytown, NY facility, June 2022 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In show­down with Roche, Re­gen­eron gears up for po­ten­tial Eylea ex­pan­sion amid Covid de­cline

Regeneron faced a substantial slump in overall revenue last year, but the focus still remains on some of its biggest blockbusters.

The pharma with several high-profile partnerships — Sanofi and Bayer among them — said Friday that Q4 revenue was down 31% for the quarter, and down 24% for the entire year. However, that won’t stop blockbuster expansion plans.

One of those is Eylea, the Bayer-partnered eye disease drug that has been in major competition with Roche’s Vabysmo. While Eylea is currently only approved in a 2 mg dose, the company recently filed for approval to give a 8 mg dose, in hopes of making a longer-lasting treatment.