Al­ler­gan bags an ear­ly-stage gene ther­a­py in $60M Ret­roSense buy­out

While Al­ler­gan’s ac­quis­i­tive CEO Brent Saun­ders was map­ping out a new com­mit­ment to shun preda­to­ry pric­ing, he si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly threw in the lat­est in a se­ries of bolt-on buy­outs.

David Nichol­son, Al­ler­gan

This time, Saun­ders has de­cid­ed to pay $60 mil­lion up front to ac­quire a small gene ther­a­py play­er based in Ann Ar­bor, MI. Ret­roSense Ther­a­peu­tics has been at­tract­ing at­ten­tion for its work us­ing a gene ther­a­py to re­store light sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the reti­na in an at­tempt to re­store the sight of peo­ple who have been blind­ed by re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa.

Ret­roSense hasn’t been in the in­dus­try spot­light much, but its op­to­ge­net­ics tech­nol­o­gy did at­tract the at­ten­tion of MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Re­view, which just tapped the biotech as one of the smartest com­pa­nies of 2016. Al­ler­gan can now ben­e­fit from the rep.

Al­ler­gan is reap­ing a lead treat­ment dubbed RST-001, which start­ed a Phase I/IIa clin­i­cal tri­al in the spring. The treat­ment im­plants a pho­to­sen­si­tiv­i­ty gene, chan­nel­rhodopsin-2, to cre­ate new pho­to­sen­sors in reti­nal gan­glion cells. The add-on beefs up Al­ler­gan’s pipeline of eye drugs and Ret­roSense in­vestors al­so get a slate of un­spec­i­fied mile­stones for a suc­cess­ful pro­gram.

Al­ler­gan has a pipeline that bal­ances a rel­a­tive­ly low-risk cos­met­ic R&D ap­proach with high-risk, high-re­ward ef­forts for de­pres­sion and oth­er CNS con­di­tions. Af­ter its deal to merge with Pfiz­er fell through ear­li­er in the year, Saun­ders im­me­di­ate­ly re­turned to his strat­e­gy of buy­ing up new com­pa­nies, large­ly stick­ing with late-stage ef­forts. The deal for Ret­roSense sig­nals that Saun­ders al­so is in­creas­ing­ly will­ing to step in ear­ly on po­ten­tial­ly game-chang­ing pro­grams.

Gene ther­a­pies have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a re­nais­sance in re­cent years, with com­pa­nies like Spark Ther­a­peu­tics mak­ing some big gains in the clin­ic. Still, each com­pa­ny in the field has some big work to do prov­ing just how durable their treat­ments will be and whether they stack up as re­al gains for pa­tients. UniQure gained a pi­o­neer­ing ap­proval in Eu­rope, but its treat­ment has re­port­ed­ly on­ly been used once. Biotechs here will al­so have to come up with some way to price gene ther­a­pies, which may be of­fered as an un­ver­i­fied cure.

David Nichol­son, the chief re­search and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer at  Al­ler­gan, had this to say:

“The team at Al­ler­gan is ex­cit­ed by the prospect of ad­vanc­ing an en­tire­ly new ap­proach in the treat­ment of reti­nal dis­eases, and this tech­nol­o­gy is high­ly com­ple­men­tary to our on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment pro­grams in this crit­i­cal treat­ment area.”

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.