Alzheimer’s play­er gets $47M, a new name and a pair of mar­quee board mem­bers

Af­ter eight years work­ing on the fringes of Alzheimer’s drug de­vel­op­ment, the group op­er­at­ing Neu­roPhage has added a cou­ple of high-pro­file biotech play­ers in the Cam­bridge/Boston hub to the board, adopt­ed a new name and com­plet­ed a hefty $47 mil­lion Se­ries E round aimed at gain­ing proof-of-con­cept da­ta for a lead drug that will try to land a nov­el one-two punch against the dis­ease.

The new name is Proclara Bio­sciences. The mon­ey comes from Mérieux Développe­ment and a group of uniden­ti­fied high-net worth in­di­vid­u­als and the ex­ecs are Third Rock’s Dan Lynch, the for­mer Im­clone chief who is tak­ing the ex­ec­u­tive chair­man’s role at Proclara, while chief blue­bird and Third Rock co-founder Nick Leschly al­so steps on to the board. Third Rock it­self is not in­volved with this syn­di­cate.

Leschly has made some pi­o­neer­ing gains on the gene ther­a­py front at blue­bird, while Lynch has helped shep­herd a group of biotechs in Cam­bridge, rang­ing from blue­bird and Nim­bus to dis­ap­point­ing fail­ures like Bind and Eleven.

They’ll be adding some vis­i­bil­i­ty to a com­pa­ny which is set­ting out on a clin­i­cal jour­ney that has al­ready de­voured bil­lions of dol­lars at much big­ger com­pa­nies who so far have all failed to make a dent in a dis­ease that steals the mem­o­ries of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world.

But, of course, that’s not news to any of them.

“Alzheimer’s is a grave­yard of drug de­vel­op­ment,” says Proclara CEO Franz Hefti.

Hefti plans to steer clear of that grave­yard by pur­su­ing a lead mol­e­cule that tack­les the mis­fold­ing pro­teins in­volved in Alzheimer’s as well as Parkin­son’s. And the biotech is si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly tar­get­ing amy­loid be­ta and tau with an up­com­ing Phase Ib study. A suc­cess in track­ing the elim­i­na­tion of both tan­gles will set up a mid-stage study with cog­ni­tion as the pri­ma­ry end­point.

“We think this one-two punch will do the trick,” adds Hefti. Ad­u­canum­ab (an ear­ly-stage Bio­gen drug that has at­tract­ed con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion) may work; we think our mol­e­cule will be bet­ter.”

Up un­til now, the R&D ap­proach to Alzheimer’s has large­ly been di­vid­ed be­tween two camps, the amy­loid be­ta crowd and a small­er group fo­cused on tau — two tox­ic pro­teins that ap­pear to kick in at dif­fer­ent stages of dis­ease de­vel­op­ment. Hefti’s crew is aim­ing at both with a sin­gle mol­e­cule.

By mid-2018 he hopes to pro­duce proof of ac­tiv­i­ty in a clin­i­cal tri­al for the lead drug, with a back­up mol­e­cule in an IND.

Get­ting past Phase II and point­ed to Phase III, a stage of R&D that re­quires big tri­als that can cost tens if not hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, will al­so re­quire the kind of phar­ma part­ner who can af­ford to foot the bill, says the CEO. That’s a steep climb, but Hefti has a long track record in biotech, with stints as CSO at Avid Ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals (bought out by Eli Lil­ly) and EVP at Ri­nat.

He knows what he’s up against.

From left to right: Lilian Kim, Associate Director Business Development; John Moller, CEO; Yooni Kim, Executive Director, Asia Operations; Michelle Park, Director South Korea Operations.

Novotech CRO sees 26% growth in Asia tri­al ac­tiv­i­ty from biotechs, but still plen­ty of ca­pac­i­ty

As the Asia-Pacific clinical trials sector continues to grow rapidly, Novotech the Asia-Pacific-based CRO is seeing biotech clinical activity up by 26%. But says there is still plenty of capacity in the region that features advanced medical facilities, supportive regulatory environments, and more than 2.3 billion people, largely treatment naïve, living in urban areas.

China, South Korea and Australia have the most studies registered as recruiting or about to recruit according to ClinicalTrials.Gov.

A preda­tor's world? Top an­a­lyst sees the 'haves' and the 'haven't­s' di­verge as biotech bub­bles form — and col­lapse

Josh Schimmer

We’ve all seen the deluge of cash that’s been pouring into biotech from every angle: VCs, IPOs and follow-ons have generated billions in capital for new and emerging drug developers with ready access to some powerful new tech. But Evercore ISI’s Josh Schimmer is asking where we’re headed from here.

His answer is neither apocalyptic nor universally blissful, but if he’s right — and this is a discussion we’re hearing much, much more about at a time of growing economic and industry uncertainty — we may well be at a crossroads that could affect valuations, M&A and the entire global industry that has formed over the past 5 years.

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Pfizer, South San Francisco — Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News

UP­DAT­ED: Pfiz­er takes aim at a flag­ship fran­chise at Sanofi and Re­gen­eron — and scores a few di­rect hits

Count Pfizer in as a top player in the blockbuster game of JAK1 inhibitors.

Over the weekend the pharma giant posted some stellar Phase III efficacy data for their heavyweight contender abrocitinib in atopic dermatitis (eczema) that lines up ahead of a booming Dupixent (dupilumab), a blockbuster in the portfolios of Regeneron and Sanofi. And they put some real distance ahead of Eli Lilly’s trailing Olumiant, which made a delayed initial arrival on the market for rheumatoid arthritis after the FDA hobbled it with some additional hurdles on safety concerns.

JADE-MONO-1 scores well for Pfizer, teeing up what will be an intensely followed breakdown of the JADE MONO-2 data, which the pharma giant recently top-lined as “similar” to the first Phase III when tested against a placebo — a control group that has been easily outclassed by all the drugs in this market niche.

As of now, Pfizer looks to be equipped to run into the review stage — advantaged by a breakthrough therapy designation that is intended to speed up the regulatory process.

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US mulls tar­iffs on Swiss drug ex­ports, weigh­ing on No­var­tis and Roche –  re­port

The leading Swiss newspaper has reported that the US is considering placing tariffs on pharmaceuticals from Switzerland. Roche and Novartis stock each fell 1% after the news broke.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told pharmaceutical representatives the Trump administration was considering the move. Tariffs do not appear to be in the immediate offing, but they would potentially affect Swiss giants Novartis and Roche along with other companies that manufacture in Switzerland, including Merck KGaA and US biotech Biogen, which is currently constructing a new facility in the country.

Neil Kumar, Endpoints

Bridge­Bio drops bid to re­claim Ei­dos af­ter di­rec­tors spurn 3 of­fers

A couple of months ago a newly public BridgeBio turned some heads by disclosing that it had made a bid for subsidiary Eidos Therapeutics in hopes of gobbling up the 34% stake that it doesn’t already own. Two offers later, the parties are calling it off.

A special committee of independent directors at the smaller biotech led by RA Capital’s Rajeev Shah and ex-Portola CEO William Lis first rejected the parent company’s initial offer — which would swap 1.3 BridgeBio shares for each Eidos share — on September 12. In the latest announcement, BridgeBio revealed that it eventually raised the offer to 1.5 shares and made $110 million available for all-cash or mixed consideration options, but Eidos still wasn’t interested.

Mark Foley, Revance

HR vi­o­la­tion push­es Re­vance co-founder out, vault­ing for­mer Zel­tiq chief to the helm

Months after Revance amended the terms of its Botox biosimilar collaboration with Mylan, the Newark, California-based drug developer disclosed its co-founder Dan Browne is stepping down, in what appears to be mysterious circumstances.

The company — which is also developing a rival to Allergan’s formidable Botox franchise — on Monday said Browne is departing “due to misjudgment in handling an employee matter,” that has also culminated in his resignation from Revance’s board of directors.

In-house FDA re­view flags a sus­pi­cious im­bal­ance in deaths as Sh­iono­gi hunts an OK for an­tibi­ot­ic

Shionogi has some big questions to answer if they plan to win an FDA panel’s backing for their new antibiotic.

While investigators have provided positive efficacy data for their new product to treat cases of complex urinary tract infections, an FDA review has flagged an imbalance of deaths between the antibiotic and a control arm. And they want the agency’s outside advisers to take a good hard look at that when they meet on Wednesday.

Cell ther­a­py start­up rais­es $16 mil­lion to fund its quest for the Holy Grail in re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine

In 2006, Shinya Yamanaka shook stem cell research with his discovery that mature cells can be converted into stem cells, relieving a longstanding political-ethical blockage and throwing open medical research on everything from curbing eye degeneration to organ printing.

But that process still has pitfalls, including in risk and scalability, and some researchers are exploring another way first hinted at years ago: new technology to convert mature cells directly into other mature cells without the complex and time-consuming process of first making them into stem cells.

Eye­ing $86M, Galera leads a pack of three mod­est biotech IPOs push­ing past high pro­file stum­bles

Exactly one year after kicking off a pivotal Phase III study for its lead drug — a companion for cancer patients receiving radiotherapy — Galera is looking to the Nasdaq for some new cash to complete the clinical work and fuel its commercial drive.

CEO Mel Sorensen has penciled in an $86 million ask, which was filed on the same day as liver disease company 89bio and rare disease diagnostics shop Centogene. The trio marks the first batch of IPO filings in the wake of two highly anticipated but ultimately disappointing public debuts by BioNTech and Vir, signaling dwindling biotech fervor on Wall Street. 89bio and Centogene are seeking $70 million and $69 million, respectively.