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.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

BREAK­ING: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,200+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.