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 top 100 bio­phar­ma VCs, Bob Brad­way places $2B bet in can­cer, gene edit­ing pi­o­neer's new big idea, 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.

Before diving in, we had some news to share: Endpoints is launching a premium weekly report focusing on all things regulatory. Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan, who joins us from POLITICO. Arsalan Arif has more details in his Publisher’s Note.

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Robert Bradway (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen snaps up can­cer drug play­er Five Prime, adding PhI­II-ready FGFR2b drug in $2B M&A play

Amgen is making a long-awaited move on the M&A side, buying South San Francisco-based Five Prime $FPRX for close to $2 billion and adding a slate of new cancer drugs to the pipeline.

Amgen is paying $38 a share, putting the deal value at $1.9 billion. The stock closed at $21.26 last night, giving investors a 78% premium.

The jewel in the crown of this deal is bemarituzumab, which Amgen describes as a first-in-class, Phase III-ready anti-FGFR2b antibody. Amgen was drawn to the bargaining table by Five Prime’s mid-stage data on gastric cancer, satisfied by PFS and OS data helping to validate FGFR2b as a target. Amgen researchers will now expand on the R&D program in other epithelial cancers, including lung, breast, ovarian and other cancers.

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UP­DAT­ED: Not 3 weeks af­ter tak­ing Hu­ma­cyte pub­lic, Ra­jiv Shuk­la launch­es an­oth­er blank check com­pa­ny

One of biotech’s earliest SPAC investors is back with another blank-check company, less than a month after his last effort announced its intent to merge.

Rajiv Shukla is intending to take a third lucky winner public with Alpha Healthcare Acquisition III, filing to go public Thursday with a $150 million raise penciled in. The move comes just a couple of weeks after Shukla’s second SPAC said it would jump to Nasdaq in tandem with Laura Niklason’s Humacyte in a $255 million new investment.

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David Liu (Casey Atkins Photography courtesy Broad Institute)

David Liu has a new big idea: pro­teome edit­ing. It could one day shred tau, RAS and some of the worst dis­ease-caus­ing pro­teins

Before David Liu became famous for inventing new forms of gene editing, he was known around academia in part for a more obscure innovation: a Rube Goldberg-esque system that uses bacteria-infecting viruses to take one protein and turn it into another.

Since 2011, Liu’s lab has used the system, called PACE, to dream up fantastical new proteins: DNA base editors far more powerful than the original; more versatile forms of the gene editor Cas9; insecticides that kill insecticide-resistant bugs; enzymes that slide synthetic amino acids into living organisms. But they struggled throughout to master one of the most common and powerful proteins in the biological world: proteases, a set of Swiss army knife enzymes that cut, cleave or shred other proteins in everything from viruses to humans.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Bruce Cozadd, Jazz CEO (Jazz Pharmaceuticals)

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd cam­paigned for 6 months to buy GW Phar­ma. A 90% pre­mi­um sealed the deal — along with $17.6M in ‘re­ten­tion’ in­cen­tives

Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd didn’t beat around the bush.

In his first video meeting with GW Pharma chief Justin Gover last July 8, he offered to pay $172 a share to get the company, which had beaten the odds in getting its remarkable cannabinoid drug Epidiolex across the regulatory finish line for epilepsy. GW’s stock closed at $129 that day.

Cozadd had already done his homework on the financing to make sure he could swing it the way he wanted. He just needed to do some due diligence before making the non-binding bid firm.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

How does Paul Hud­son's $13.5M comp pack­age stack up against oth­er CEOs? He's in the 'first quar­tile'

Paul Hudson arrived at Sanofi like a hurricane, chopping off duds in the pipeline, shaking up the C-suite, striking big M&A deals and jumping into the Covid-19 vaccine race — all in an attempt to reboot a pharma giant notorious for its setbacks.

Now, we’re getting a look at what the CEO brought home in his first year on the job.

When all is said and done, Hudson will have made about $6.7 million in 2020, about $2.5 million of which has already been paid. The bigger figure includes a $2.3 million bonus that’s subject to approval at an April meeting, and another $1.8 million in variable compensation that has yet to be paid.

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An Ar­ray co-founder re-emerges as CEO of a small aca­d­e­m­ic spin­out, look­ing to re­make an old class of can­cer drugs

Tony Piscopio hadn’t worked as a bench scientist in years when, around 2011, he got put in touch with a team at the University of Colorado trying to revitalize an old approach to treating cancer.

Piscopio, who had co-founded Array Biopharma before heading to South Korea to launch a new company, was back in the states, unattached and intrigued. He founded a three-person company with two professors, Xuedong Liu and Gail Eckhardt, and while they worked on the biology side, he returned to his old chemist chair and began drawing up potential compounds on a computer, along with manufacturing processes to make them. Outsourcing companies synthesized or analyzed the results.

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Af­ter three years of courtship (and turn­downs), Mer­ck pounced on the first glance of clin­i­cal da­ta in $1.85B Pan­dion takeover

It’s almost become cliché for biotech executives to talk about the importance of keeping your options open and being prepared to go all the way. But when it comes to negotiating with a giant like Merck, a little patience can indeed go a long way.

Just ask Pandion Therapeutics.

Days ago we already learned that Merck is shelling out $1.85 billion to pick up the biotech and its slate of autoimmune hopefuls. What we didn’t know until the SEC disclosure dropped Thursday is that the deal comes after Pandion turned down two other proposals from Merck over the past three years and held out until the last minute for a sweetened deal.

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