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.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.