Ping Cao, BridGene CEO

A year af­ter net­ting Take­da part­ner­ship, small mol­e­cule start­up arms it­self with some new cash

As small mol­e­cule com­pa­nies con­tin­ue to get se­ri­ous cash from in­vestors as well as back­ing from ma­jor phar­ma com­pa­nies such as Eli Lil­ly, Cal­i­for­nia-based Brid­Gene Bio­sciences is look­ing to stay ahead of the pack.

The com­pa­ny an­nounced Wednes­day morn­ing it pulled in a $38.5 mil­lion Se­ries B, which will be go­ing to­wards fur­ther de­vel­op­ing its plat­form, dubbed IM­TAC. The plat­form al­lows Brid­Gene to screen small mol­e­cules against a tar­get in live cells to dis­cov­er pos­si­ble drug can­di­dates, main­ly in un­drug­gable tar­gets, in­clud­ing for can­cers. The com­pa­ny will al­so be look­ing to ex­pand its small mol­e­cule li­brary as well.

Brid­Gene’s Se­ries B comes on­ly a year af­ter the com­pa­ny made some se­ri­ous moves. In 2021, not on­ly did Brid­Gene se­cure a $12 mil­lion Se­ries A, but it al­so net­ted a deal with Japan­ese drug gi­ant Take­da for them to use their plat­form, po­ten­tial­ly worth up to $500 mil­lion. CEO Ping Cao said in an in­ter­view with End­points News that the two com­pa­nies will an­nounce the mile­stones on that project in the next few months.

Cao al­so said that in the time be­tween the two rais­es, the com­pa­ny has been fo­cused on build­ing out its small mol­e­cule li­brary and fur­ther op­ti­miz­ing the plat­form. The mol­e­cules that have been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Brid­Gene have been use­ful in high-val­ue tar­gets, and the com­pa­ny is putting to­geth­er a pipeline, Cao added. The com­pa­ny’s lead pro­gram is a TEAD in­hibitor, and their pipeline has a few oth­er undis­closed on­col­o­gy pro­grams.

The Se­ries B will give Brid­Gene a run­way of two years, with  ex­ecs hop­ing to have a clin­i­cal tri­al up and run­ning by 2024.

The com­pa­ny is al­so look­ing to ex­pand its head­count. Cao said he is look­ing to have around 40 em­ploy­ees by the mid­dle of next year, up from the cur­rent to­tal of 24.

While the small mol­e­cule space con­tin­ues to be crowd­ed, Cao said that his com­pa­ny’s plat­form is what is go­ing to set them apart from the pack, say­ing it can screen co­va­lent and non-co­va­lent small mol­e­cules. Al­so, the com­pa­ny is not just tar­get­ing cys­tine residue, which on­ly ac­counts for 3.3% of pro­tein abun­dance, but al­so oth­er amino acids to get bet­ter pro­tein cov­er­age.

Cao not­ed that with the mar­ket down­turn and Covid-19 hav­ing an im­pact on meet­ing peo­ple for fundrais­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, the fact that it was able to get the deal across the line was huge for Brid­Gene’s fu­ture.

Wednes­day’s round was fi­nanced by the in­vest­ment firms La­pam Cap­i­tal, Jun­son Cap­i­tal and Dy­ee Cap­i­tal.

UP­DAT­ED: In a fresh dis­ap­point­ment, Am­gen spot­lights a ma­jor safe­ty is­sue with KRAS com­bo

Amgen had hoped that its latest study matching its landmark KRAS G12C drug Lumakras with checkpoint inhibitors would open up its treatment horizons and expand its commercial potential. Instead, the combo spurred safety issues that blunted efficacy and forced the pharma giant to alter course on its treatment strategy, once again disappointing analysts who have been tracking the drug’s faltering sales and limited therapeutic reach.

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Ad­dress­ing the ‘Ca­pac­i­ty Crunch’ with a Scal­able Plat­form Process Ap­proach

The field of gene therapy has been diligently moving forward over the past several decades to bring potentially life-saving treatments to patients with genetic diseases. In addition to two approved adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapies, there are more than 250 AAV gene therapies in various clinical trial stages.1 AAV vectors remain the most frequently used vector for delivering therapeutic transgenes to target tissues due to their demonstrated and lasting clinical efficacy and extensive safety track record. As AAV therapies advance through clinical trials and into commercialization, many biotech companies are turning to contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to prepare their programs for late-stage clinical and commercial scale manufacturing. Given the scope and scale of the manufacturing needs that will accompany regulatory approvals for these assets, CDMOs continue to expand their capacity to meet the needs of increasing prevalent patient populations. However, despite rapid growth, projected gene therapy manufacturing demands still outpace the collective capacity of the CDMO industry.

A $5B Pfiz­er buy­out? Am­gen, Gilead head­line M&A Thurs­day; Al­ny­lam's AT­TR sweep; An­drew Lo's rare dis­ease quest; 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.

One of the cool things about adding EndpointsPharma to the daily roster is that my colleagues can now dedicate time to tracking quarterly updates and tuning into calls with Big Pharma companies. Check out their dispatch from the Q2 earnings below.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Justin Kase Conder/AP Images for Amgen)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen chief Brad­way nabs a rare dis­ease play­er in $4B buy­out as the M&A tem­po ac­cel­er­ates

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway is bellying up to the M&A table today, scooping up the newly anointed commercial biotech ChemoCentryx $CCXI and its recently approved rare disease drug for $3.7 billion out of the cash stockpile. The deal comes in at $52 a share — a hefty increase over the $24.11 close yesterday.

Bradway and the Amgen team get a drug called Tavneos (avacopan) in the deal, a complement factor C5a inhibitor OK’d to treat anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis, an autoimmune disease which can be lethal.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron president and CSO (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Alamy)

George Yan­copou­los says he's on the trail of the holy grail: ‘This could rep­re­sent the next break­through for im­munother­a­py’

Two of the most outspoken — and successful — drug developers in biotech say they’ve collected early-stage clinical data that are pointing them down the trail to the holy grail in cancer immunotherapy R&D.

While analysts largely busied themselves today with chronicling the ongoing success of Regeneron’s two big cash cows — Dupixent and Eylea — chief scientist George Yancopoulos and CEO Len Schleifer used the Q2 call to spotlight their early success with a combination of the “homegrown” PSMAxCD28 costimulatory bispecific antibody REGN5678 in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo. The presentation comes just weeks after Regeneron completed a deal to gather all rights to the PD-1 that had been in Sanofi’s hands. And the two top execs are unstinting in their praise of the potential of a whole set of costimulatory pipeline projects which they say may finally deliver the long-awaited next-level approach to broadening the immunotherapy field of drugs.

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With SPAC­s' high tide long gone, Blue Wa­ter ditch­es sec­ond blank check voy­age

The SPAC waters have been choppy for a few quarters, and the leaders of Blue Water Vaccines are joining the wave of blank-check operators ditching plans to dock their boat on Wall Street.

While the Blue Water duo of Joseph Hernandez and Jon Garfield was successful in getting their first SPAC to merge with a biotech, testosterone drug maker Clarus Therapeutics, and also take their own biotech public in February, they have decided to back out of the SPAC market, following the suit of many others.

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

US de­clares mon­key­pox a na­tion­al health emer­gency, as new drug­mak­ers con­sid­er en­ter­ing vac­cine race

Rising monkeypox cases have put the US on high alert as it announces a national health emergency, which grants the government more power in its response.

The news comes as Bavarian Nordic continues to fill orders for its Jynneos vaccine and other companies – including Moderna – consider jumping into the vaccine race. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the US has allowed around 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine in its stockpile to expire.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Bio­haven touts surge in Nurtec sales ahead of Pfiz­er takeover

Forget buyer’s remorse, Pfizer is likely feeling pretty good about its $11.6 billion Biohaven takeover deal following reports of a 57% sales boost for migraine med Nurtec.

Biohaven reported in Q2 results on Friday that it’s cleared the necessary antitrust hurdles to move forward with the sale of its calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) assets to Pfizer. However, because the company is “focused on workstreams related to the closing” of the deal, it did not host a call with analysts and investors.