Lara Sullivan, Pyxis Oncology CEO

Al­loy and Pyx­is spin out new 'com­pa­ny' around high-risk I/O, im­munol­o­gy tar­gets

When CEO Lara Sul­li­van and the team at Pyx­is sat down in 2019 to see which of the many tar­gets from Thomas Gajew­s­ki’s im­muno-on­col­o­gy lab they would try to drug, there were too many for any start­up to pur­sue at once. They pri­or­i­tized the tar­gets they thought had the best chance of suc­cess, leav­ing the rest for some fu­ture date.

That date came soon­er than ex­pect­ed. Last year, the team at Al­loy Ther­a­peu­tics —the con­glom­er­ate of biotech ser­vices, tech­nolo­gies and spin­outs backed by bil­lion­aire in­vestor Pe­ter Thiel — got wind of all that Pyx­is was leav­ing on the ta­ble. Now, the two are spin­ning out a new com­pa­ny, Ky­ma Ther­a­peu­tics, ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing an­ti­bod­ies that can hit two of the high-risk tar­gets, po­ten­tial­ly open­ing up paths to treat­ments in can­cer and im­munol­o­gy.

Errik An­der­son

“We would de­scribe Pyx­is as a very tar­get-rich com­pa­ny. They have a great pipeline of their own mol­e­cules and they had a whole bunch of re­al­ly good, oth­er in­ter­est­ing tar­get ideas and they weren’t go­ing to be able to pros­e­cute all of them in 2020,” Al­loy CEO Errik An­der­son told End­points News. So An­der­son’s team said, “Hey, we’ve got in­fra­struc­ture, where we could pros­e­cute those tar­gets quick­ly — make hu­man mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies and test them in a re­al­ly ef­fi­cient way.”

The sec­ond spin­out Al­loy has launched in the past year, Ky­ma is for now ef­fec­tive­ly a well-brand­ed part­ner­ship mas­querad­ing as a biotech com­pa­ny. It has no full-time em­ploy­ees and is gov­erned by a “joint-steer­ing com­mit­tee.” Its op­er­a­tion con­sists main­ly of Al­loy us­ing its hu­man­ized mice to de­vel­op an­ti­bod­ies against Pyx­is tar­gets and then send­ing the an­ti­bod­ies back to Pyx­is for test­ing — rough­ly the same out­line that now gov­erns hun­dreds of col­lab­o­ra­tions across the in­dus­try.

An­der­son, though, said the le­gal frame­work gives them greater flex­i­bil­i­ty than they would un­der a nor­mal part­ner­ship, al­low­ing both sides to avoid tire­some ne­go­ti­a­tions. They can add new tar­gets as they go, and they can de­cide down the road as new da­ta ar­rive whether Pyx­is should re­ab­sorb Ky­ma and de­vel­op the an­ti­bod­ies in-house, or whether they should even­tu­al­ly raise cap­i­tal, hire a few em­ploy­ees, and launch Ky­ma as a full-fledged com­pa­ny.

Chris Pacheco

Chris Pacheco, a ven­ture part­ner at Al­loy’s ven­ture stu­dio 82VS, said the for­mat al­lows them to de­vel­op the sci­ence fur­ther be­fore putting re­al mon­ey be­hind it.

“It’s to test out these hy­pothe­ses,” he told End­points. “Get to a place where you ac­tu­al­ly have as­sets in hand and ac­tu­al bi­o­log­i­cal da­ta to sup­port it, as op­posed to just build­ing a team around con­cepts on pa­per.”

Pyx­is was launched to go af­ter new im­muno-on­col­o­gy tar­gets dis­cov­ered in Gajew­s­ki’s lab, tak­ing the field out of PD-1, CT­LA4, LAG-3 and TIG­IT and in­to new, un­chart­ed, acronymic ter­rain. But the com­pa­ny has yet to dis­close any of those tar­gets.

Sim­i­lar­ly, Al­loy is stay­ing tight-lipped on Ky­ma. An­der­son said on­ly that one tar­get was in im­muno-on­col­o­gy and one tar­get was for im­munol­o­gy, that nei­ther had been tar­get­ed in the clin­ic yet and that both were de­signed to help “non-re­spon­ders.” Would that mean can­cer pa­tients non-re­spon­sive to PD-1?

Thomas Gajew­s­ki

“Po­ten­tial­ly yes,” he said. “Or per­haps even oth­er mech­a­nis­tic non-re­spon­ders, when you un­der­stand the mech­a­nism of non-re­sponse.”

A minute lat­er, he added: “Imag­ine your im­mune cells don’t work the way they should.”

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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David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

FDA hands ac­cel­er­at­ed nod to Seagen, Gen­mab's so­lo ADC in cer­vi­cal can­cer, but com­bo stud­ies look even more promis­ing

Biopharma’s resident antibody-drug conjugate expert Seagen has scored a clutch of oncology approvals in recent years, finding gold in what are known as “third-gen” ADCs. Now, another of their partnered conjugates is ready for prime time.

The FDA on Monday handed an accelerated approval to Seagen and Genmab’s Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin-tftv, or “TV”) in second-line patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who previously progressed after chemotherapy rather than PD-(L)1 systemic therapy, the companies said in a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.

As­traZeneca, Dai­ichi Sanky­o's ADC En­her­tu blows away Roche's Kad­cy­la in sec­ond-line ad­vanced breast can­cer

AstraZeneca and Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo think they’ve struck gold with their next-gen ADC drug Enhertu, which has shown some striking data in late-stage breast cancer trials and early solid tumor tests. Getting into earlier patients is now the goal, starting with Enhertu’s complete walkover of a Roche drug in second-line breast cancer revealed Saturday.

Enhertu cut the risk of disease progression or death by a whopping 72% (p=<0.0001) compared with Roche’s ADC Kadcyla in second-line unresectable and/or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer patients who had previously undergone treatment with a Herceptin-chemo combo, according to interim data from the Phase III DESTINY-Breast03 head-to-head study presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

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