Richard Mason, Apollo Therapeutics CEO

A UK biotech looks to bring al­liance be­tween GSK, J&J, As­traZeneca, and top uni­ver­si­ties state­side with its first megaround

Richard Ma­son was work­ing at the J&J In­no­va­tion Cen­ter in Lon­don about six years ago when the com­pa­ny linked arms with two oth­er phar­mas and three of the UK’s lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties to form Apol­lo Ther­a­peu­tics — a trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine group aimed at spin­ning out new ther­a­pies. Now he’s run­ning the show at Apol­lo, and he’s pulled in $145 mil­lion to dri­ve those pro­grams in­to the clin­ic.

Ma­son un­veiled what he calls Apol­lo’s “first in­sti­tu­tion­al fi­nanc­ing” ear­ly Thurs­day morn­ing, which he plans on us­ing to beef up op­er­a­tions both in the UK and the US, and ad­vance a port­fo­lio of more than 15 pro­grams.

“We had this fan­tas­tic pe­ri­od of just heads down, loads and loads of R&D, and now it’s time to re­al­ly in­vest in it,” the new CEO told End­points News. 

Apol­lo was es­tab­lished in late 2015 as a joint ven­ture be­tween the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, Im­pe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don, Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don, As­traZeneca, Glax­o­SmithK­line and J&J In­no­va­tion to “bridge the gap” be­tween aca­d­e­m­ic sci­ence and pa­tients.

“They knew they had great in­no­va­tion and great sci­en­tists,” Ma­son said of uni­ver­si­ty re­searchers. “But ac­tu­al­ly just the know-how on in­dus­tri­al stan­dard R&D, it was dif­fi­cult to ac­cess.”

Apol­lo’s pro­grams fall in­to three main buck­ets: on­col­o­gy, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­or­ders and rare dis­ease. Ma­son is hold­ing his cards close for now, and de­clined to say much about the port­fo­lio aside from that it spans a range of modal­i­ties, in­clud­ing a num­ber of small mol­e­cules and bi­o­log­ics. Last Ju­ly, Apol­lo out-li­censed its first pro­gram — a gene ther­a­py de­vel­oped at the Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don — to Deer­field Man­age­ment.

The de­fault plan is to take the pro­grams to clin­i­cal proof-of-con­cept, then pick the best ones to take in­to lat­er de­vel­op­ment and com­mer­cial­iza­tion while li­cens­ing out the rest, Ma­son ex­plained. Apol­lo will prob­a­bly be in the clin­ic with “a num­ber of pro­grams” in the next 12 months or so, he added.

Jim Mom­tazee

“What’s fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent about it is your clas­sic ven­ture-dri­ven biotech mod­el, the in­tent, near­ly al­ways, is even­tu­al­ly to sell the com­pa­ny,” said Pa­tient Square Cap­i­tal’s Jim Mom­tazee, who is join­ing Apol­lo’s board. “This busi­ness mod­el has that op­tion­al­i­ty at the pro­gram lev­el, but the in­tent of Apol­lo Ther­a­peu­tics as a busi­ness en­ter­prise is to be around fun­da­men­tal­ly for­ev­er. And you do things quite dif­fer­ent­ly when the in­tent is to be around fun­da­men­tal­ly for­ev­er.”

Apol­lo is us­ing some of its funds to build a new fa­cil­i­ty in the Boston area, and in the next 18 months Ma­son plans to have about 30 full-time staffers split be­tween both sides of the At­lantic.

“Very nat­u­ral­ly now, there’s a huge op­por­tu­ni­ty to use this as a spring­board to, you know, with the in­vest­ment from Pa­tient Square Cap­i­tal and oth­ers, to re­al­ly dri­ve this for­ward as an in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny,” he said.

The round was led by Pa­tient Square Cap­i­tal, with Rock Springs Cap­i­tal, Reimag­ined Ven­tures and UCL Tech­nol­o­gy Fund chim­ing in.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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