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.”

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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invoX Pharma CEO Ben Toogood (L) and F-star CEO Eliot Forster

F-star bought out in $161M all-cash deal as Hong Kong's Sino Bio­pharm looks to­ward in­ter­na­tion­al ex­pan­sion

After more than a decade and a half of charting its own course, F-star Therapeutics will now settle under a new umbrella company.

The UK biotech will be acquired by invoX Pharma, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Sino Biopharm, in a roughly $161 million all-cash deal, the companies announced Thursday morning. F-star’s buyout will value its shares $FSTX at $7.12 apiece, nearly an 80% premium above Wednesday’s closing price.

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DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.