Feng Tian, Ambrx CEO (Ambrx)

Af­ter 5 qui­et years, a for­mer Scripps spin­out rais­es $200M and an­nounces plans to try again at an IPO

The first time San Diego biotech Am­brx tried to go pub­lic in 2014, they failed and the com­pa­ny’s board switched to a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent strat­e­gy: They sold them­selves for an undis­closed amount to a syn­di­cate of Chi­nese in­vestors and phar­ma com­pa­nies.

Now, af­ter 5 qui­et years, that syn­di­cate has raised a moun­tain of cash and in­di­cat­ed they’ll soon make an­oth­er bid to go pub­lic.

Ear­li­er this month, Am­brx raised $200 mil­lion in what they billed as a crossover round fi­nanced by Fi­deli­ty, Black­Rock, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, In­vus, Adage Cap­i­tal Part­ners and Su­vret­ta Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment. It’s the largest amount they’ve ever raised and, ac­cord­ing to Crunch­base fig­ures, more than dou­bles the to­tal amount of VC cap­i­tal col­lect­ed since their launch 17 years ago.

“Since mid-2018, our new man­age­ment team, set on a new long term vi­sion, has com­mit­ted to build­ing com­pa­ny fun­da­men­tals and trans­form­ing Am­brx from a tech­nol­o­gy de­vel­op­er to a full-fledged bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny,” CEO Feng Tian said in a state­ment. “The con­clu­sion of this fi­nanc­ing and the strong da­ta emerg­ing from our on­go­ing clin­i­cal pro­grams, as well as our deep pre­clin­i­cal pipeline of pro­pri­etary drug can­di­dates, po­si­tions the com­pa­ny for rapid growth.”

Am­brx spun out of Scripps Re­search in 20o3 and, over the next decade, racked up part­ner­ships with Mer­ck, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb, Astel­las, and Eli Lil­ly, all of whom want­ed to col­lab­o­rate on an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates or oth­er as­pects of Am­brx’s pro­tein en­gi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

But af­ter Shang­hai Fo­s­un Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Group, WuXi Phar­mat­e­ch and oth­ers bought them out in 2015, the com­pa­ny turned its at­ten­tion large­ly to­ward Chi­na. Over the fol­low­ing four years, they signed dis­cov­ery deals with BeiGene, Suzhou-based Mab­Space and Shang­hai-based NovoCodex, among oth­ers.

With a $45 mil­lion pri­vate round, they al­so moved their first in-house drug in­to the clin­ic, a HER2 tar­get­ing an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate called ARX788. Be­yond ARX788, the com­pa­ny now lists 2 oth­er an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates and 4 dif­fer­ent im­muno-on­col­o­gy an­ti­bod­ies in pre­clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing a CD3 bis­pe­cif­ic.

At the same time, an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, have gar­nered new ex­cite­ment around the in­dus­try, as Seagen racks ap­proval af­ter ap­proval with Glax­o­SmithK­line, Dai­ichi Sankyo, and Genen­tech all adding their own.

A cou­ple of the mol­e­cules from some of Am­brx’s big-name part­ner­ships re­main in clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Last year, Bris­tol My­ers paid the biotech a mile­stone for ad­vanc­ing one pro­tein in­to hu­man test­ing for heart fail­ure. Still, the Big Phar­ma has said lit­tle of the an­ti­body they were test­ing in Phase II for NASH, and Astel­las re­cent­ly dis­con­tin­ued a Phase I study in acute myeloid leukemia for an Am­brx-part­nered drug.

Am­brx has reached one ap­proval, though: Im­restor, an an­ti­body they teamed with Eli Lil­ly’s an­i­mal health di­vi­sion on, was OK’d in 2013. It boosts the im­mune sys­tem of dairy cows.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'


Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Rajesh Devraj, Rectify Pharmaceuticals CEO

At­las backs a long­time Ver­tex em­ploy­ee’s quest to bring CF suc­cess to nu­mer­ous oth­er dis­eases

One of Vertex’s longest-tenured employees believes he can take the biotech’s biggest medical and scientific accomplishments and use it to develop treatments for more than just cystic fibrosis.

Three years ago, Jonathan Moore, a scientist and then executive at Vertex from 1990 to 2018, founded a company to develop treatments for diseases that, like CF, are caused by mutations in a “super family” of proteins known as ABC transporters.

Yao-Chang Xu, Abbisko Therapeutics founder and CEO

Qim­ing-backed Ab­bisko makes $200M+ Hong Kong de­but, as a SPAC and Agenus spin­out al­so price on Nas­daq

Three new entities priced their public debuts late Thursday and early Friday, including a SPAC, a traditional Nasdaq IPO and a Chinese biotech joining the Hong Kong Index.

Shanghai-based Abbisko Therapeutics raised the most money of the triumvirate, garnering $226 million in its Hong Kong debut and pricing at HK$12.46, or roughly $1.60 in US dollars. The blank check company followed up with a $150 million raise, while MiNK Therapeutics priced on Nasdaq at $12 per share and a $40 million raise.