Alex Leech, Alchemab CEO (SV Health Investors)

Alchemab bags fresh round of in­vestor for tar­get-ag­nos­tic an­ti­body de­vel­op­ment for Hunt­ing­ton's, Covid-19

Jane Os­bourn

With a “tar­get-ag­nos­tic” ap­proach to an­ti­body de­vel­op­ment, the UK’s Alchemab has used lessons learned from pa­tients with re­sis­tance to cer­tain dis­eases to chase af­ter con­di­tions as far apart as Hunt­ing­ton’s and Covid-19. Now, in­vestors are jump­ing on board the con­cept with an $86 mil­lion Se­ries A.

The pro­ceeds will go to­ward ad­vanc­ing the com­pa­ny’s tar­get-ag­nos­tic drug dis­cov­ery pro­gram, a re­lease said. That ap­proach looks at the an­ti­body reper­toires of pa­tients who show re­sis­tance to typ­i­cal­ly de­struc­tive dis­eases re­gard­less of ge­net­ic dis­po­si­tion.

In No­vem­ber, the com­pa­ny, whose sci­en­tists were led by CSO Jane Os­bourn, a for­mer As­traZeneca ex­ec­u­tive, joined a task force to de­vel­op an an­ti­body cock­tail for treat­ing Covid-19. That task force claimed to ac­cel­er­ate the time­line for an­ti­body dis­cov­ery from 18 months to 7 months, a path­way that could be ap­plied to fu­ture pan­demics that arise. Alchemab was joined by ION­TAS, LifeArc and Kymab, among oth­er com­pa­nies, ac­cord­ing to Busi­ness Week­ly.

In June, Os­bourn told  Busi­ness Week­ly that there was no rush to get to Se­ries A and said it would be ex­e­cut­ed “when the time is right” as the com­pa­ny had its sights set on glob­al ex­pan­sion. This fund­ing is a step in that di­rec­tion.

Olivia Cavlan

“Our am­bi­tion is to be one of the best…by a hav­ing re­al­ly unique ap­proach to iden­ti­fy­ing new tar­gets and drug­ging them,” head of busi­ness Olivia Cavlan told End­points. “At the mo­ment we have an in­cred­i­bly tal­ent­ed team, we’ve got in­di­vid­u­als ab­solute­ly at the top of their field and a fab­u­lous cul­ture, but the way that you stay on top of your game is by bring­ing new peo­ple in, be­ing in­ter­na­tion­al and un­der­stand­ing what is go­ing on glob­al­ly, so that’s what we need to do.”

Os­bourn has an ex­ten­sive back­ground in phe­no­typ­ic drug dis­cov­ery, and over the last cou­ple of years, the in­no­va­tions sur­round­ing bulk BCR-RNA se­quenc­ing com­bined with Alchemab’s an­a­lyt­i­cal and da­ta man­age­ment tools have been able to cre­ate a method of drug dis­cov­ery that Cavlan says is quite dif­fer­ent.

The com­pa­ny al­so col­lab­o­rates ex­ten­sive­ly with aca­d­e­mics and oth­er com­pa­nies. The com­pa­ny’s ap­proach has sup­port from Ox­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty and Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal. Its work is fo­cused on can­cer and neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases.

Alchemab boasts a team of about 30 peo­ple that is un­usu­al­ly more than 50% women, which Cavlan says plays an im­por­tant role in their suc­cess.

“It’s a team that’s learn­ing as we go, will­ing to fail, but every­one work­ing at the ab­solute top of their game,” she said.

Boston-based RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment led the round with in­volve­ment from Light­stone Ven­tures, Da­ta Col­lec­tive VC, DHVC, SV Health In­vestors and the De­men­tia Dis­cov­ery Fund.

On March 16, the com­pa­ny an­nounced that it was award­ed a grant from In­no­vate UK to sup­port an­ti­body ther­a­py for Hunt­ing­ton’s dis­ease, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Med­i­cines Dis­cov­ery Cat­a­pult. Be­fore re­ceiv­ing the fund­ing, sci­en­tists re­port­ed hav­ing iden­ti­fied a pan­el of an­ti­bod­ies with dis­ease-mod­i­fy­ing po­ten­tial. With that mon­ey, Alchemab will con­duct the first in-hu­man stud­ies of the treat­ment over the next 18 months. If suc­cess­ful, a treat­ment that slows or halts dis­ease pro­gres­sion could be the re­sult.

That study fea­tured col­lab­o­ra­tion from the CD­HI, which Cavlan said was cru­cial in iden­ti­fy­ing pa­tients that show re­silien­cy to the dis­ease.

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

Jacob Van Naarden (Eli Lilly)

Ex­clu­sives: Eli Lil­ly out to crash the megablock­buster PD-(L)1 par­ty with 'dis­rup­tive' pric­ing; re­veals can­cer biotech buy­out

It’s taken 7 years, but Eli Lilly is promising to finally start hammering the small and affluent PD-(L)1 club with a “disruptive” pricing strategy for their checkpoint therapy allied with China’s Innovent.

Lilly in-licensed global rights to sintilimab a year ago, building on the China alliance they have with Innovent. That cost the pharma giant $200 million in cash upfront, which they plan to capitalize on now with a long-awaited plan to bust up the high-price market in lung cancer and other cancers that have created a market worth tens of billions of dollars.

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The End­points 11: They've got mad mon­ey and huge am­bi­tions. It's time to go big or go home

These days, selecting a group of private biotechs for the Endpoints 11 spotlight begins with a sprint to get ahead of IPOs and the M&A teams at Big Pharma. I’ve had a couple of face plants earlier this year, watching some of the biotechs on my short list choose a quick leap onto Nasdaq or into the arms of a buyer.

Vividion, you would have been a great pick for the Endpoints 11. I’m sorry I missed you.

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Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

So what hap­pened with No­var­tis Gene Ther­a­pies? Here's your an­swer

Over the last couple of days it’s become clear that the gene therapy division at Novartis has quietly undergone a major reorganization. We learned on Monday that Dave Lennon, who had pursued a high-profile role as president of the unit with 1,500 people, had left the pharma giant to take over as CEO of a startup.

Like a lot of the majors, Novartis is an open highway for head hunters, or anyone looking to staff a startup. So that was news but not completely unexpected.

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Maureen Hillenmeyer, Hexagon Bio CEO

Hexa­gon Bio rais­es $61M to con­tin­ue ef­forts to turn fun­gi in­to drugs

A year after raising a $47 million launch round, the fungi-loving drug hunters at Hexagon Bio have more than doubled their coffers.

Hexagon announced today that it raised another $61 million for its efforts to design cancer and infectious disease drugs based on insights mined from the DNA in millions of species of fungi. The new financing brings Hexagon’s committed funding to over $108 million.

FDA+ roundup: Bs­U­FA III ready for show­time, court tells FDA to re-work com­pound­ing plan, new guid­ance up­dates and more

The FDA has now spelled out what exactly will be included in the third iteration of Biosimilar User Fee Act (BsUFA) from 2023 through 2027, which similarly to the prescription drug deal, sets fees that industry has to pay for submitting applications, in exchange for firm timelines that the agency must meet.

This latest deal includes several sweeteners for the biosimilar industry, which has yet to make great strides in the US market, with shorter review timelines for safety labeling updates and updates to add or remove an indication that does not contain efficacy data.

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Who are the women su­per­charg­ing bio­phar­ma R&D? Nom­i­nate them for this year's spe­cial re­port

The biotech industry has faced repeated calls to diversify its workforce — and in the last year, those calls got a lot louder. Though women account for just under half of all biotech employees around the world, they occupy very few places in C-suites, and even fewer make it to the helm.

Some companies are listening, according to a recent BIO survey which showed that this year’s companies were 2.5 times more likely to have a diversity and inclusion program compared to last year’s sample. But we still have a long way to go. Women represent just 31% of biotech executives, BIO reported. And those numbers are even more stark for women of color.

Joshua Liang, Clover Biopharmaceuticals CEO

With world still in sore need of dos­es, Clover says its Covid-19 vac­cine is 67% ef­fec­tive in Phase III

With concerns about the Delta variant rising and much of the world still in desperate need of vaccine doses, a Chinese biotech announced Wednesday that a new shot has shown positive results in a large trial against Covid-19, including new variants.

Clover Biopharmaceuticals announced Wednesday that its vaccine candidate showed 79% efficacy against the Delta variant in a Phase II/III trial dubbed Spectra, and 67% effective against Covid-19 overall.

Jean Bennett (Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP Images)

Lux­tur­na in­ven­tor Jean Ben­nett starts a new gene ther­a­py com­pa­ny to tack­le rare dis­eases left be­hind by phar­ma, VCs

A few years ago Jean Bennett found herself in a surprising place for a woman who invented the first gene therapy ever approved in the United States: No one, it seemed, wanted her work.

Bennett, who designed and co-developed Luxturna, approved in 2018 for a rare form of blindness, had kept building new gene therapies for eye diseases at her University of Pennsylvania lab. But although the results in animals looked promising, pharma companies and investors kept turning down the pedigreed ophthalmology professor.

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