AM-Phar­ma gath­ers €116M for PhI­II pro­gram on kid­ney drug Pfiz­er passed on

Erik van den Berg AM-Phar­ma

Back in 2015, Pfiz­er put a spot­light on Dutch biotech AM-Phar­ma and its drug can­di­date for sep­sis-as­so­ci­at­ed acute kid­ney in­jury, an­te­ing up $87.5 mil­lion for a mi­nor­i­ty stake in ad­di­tion to an op­tion to gob­ble the whole op­er­a­tion up. The Phase II tri­al that the gi­ant part­ner had bet on end­ed up de­liv­er­ing a mixed win, and Pfiz­er walked away from the deal cit­ing “in­ter­nal strate­gic rea­sons” — leav­ing the small play­er on its own to pull off a large Phase III study and pon­der com­mer­cial­iza­tion.

A year and a half af­ter that da­ta read­out, AM-Phar­ma is go­ing for it. In lieu of one deep-pock­et­ed al­ly, it’s as­sem­bled a group of top-tier Eu­ro­pean in­vestors to back its fi­nal stretch in the clin­ic.

LSP and An­dera Part­ners co-led the €116 mil­lion ($133 mil­lion) round, join­ing found­ing in­vestor For­bion and oth­er ex­ist­ing sup­port­ers: Ys­ios Cap­i­tal, Kur­ma Part­ners, ID In­vest Part­ners, BB Pure­os Bioven­tures and Gilde Health­care.

The Phase III pro­gram will re­cruit 1,400 pa­tients across 12 coun­tries to test whether AM-Phar­ma’s re­com­bi­nant hu­man al­ka­line phos­phatase (re­cAP) can in­deed re­duce the mor­tal­i­ty rate due to kid­ney dam­age in­duced by the body’s over­whelm­ing re­sponse to in­fec­tions.

The 40% re­duc­tion not­ed in the pre­vi­ous Phase II was what gave van den Berg con­fi­dence de­spite the drug not hit­ting the pri­ma­ry end­point of im­prov­ing kid­ney func­tion in 7 days.

“Short term kid­ney func­tion im­prove­ment was re­al­ly more a de­sign for the Phase II study to be able to pick the most op­ti­mal dose,” he said. “It’s kind of a bio­mark­er if you like. For Phase III one has to choose hard clin­i­cal end­points, and the most pre­ferred end­point by the reg­u­la­tors is the mor­tal­i­ty in this set­ting.”

And it’s not hard to see why. With mil­lions of pa­tients suf­fer­ing from acute kid­ney in­jury each oth­er — half of which are as­so­ci­at­ed with sep­sis — and 700,000 deaths around the world an­nu­al­ly, mak­ing a dent in that would mean a block­buster op­por­tu­ni­ty.

Re­cAP works by de­phos­pho­ry­lat­ing sub­stances that can trig­ger the im­mune sys­tem in­to dev­as­tat­ing the kid­ney, thus dex­o­ti­fy­ing them and re­duc­ing the in­flam­ma­tion.

“From our in­ter­ac­tions with FDA and EMA last year, we just need to con­duct one sin­gle pos­i­tive piv­otal study to file for mar­ket ap­proval,” he tells me, adding that the drug has se­cured fast track des­ig­na­tion in the US.

He plans to bring the com­pa­ny’s head­count up from 15 to as many as 30 to com­plete the clin­i­cal work and per­haps be­gin lay­ing some ground­work for launch.

Fol­low­ing the fi­nanc­ing the board will al­so ex­pand, com­pris­ing Mar­ti­jn Klei­jwegt and Fe­lice Ver­duyn van Wee­gen from LSP, Raphael Wis­niews­ki from An­dera, Re­mi Droller from Kur­ma and Geert-Jan Mul­der from For­bion.

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: No­var­tis re­cruits NFL coach for Leqvio cam­paign; Pfiz­er pro­motes ‘Sci­ence’ merch on so­cial me­dia

Novartis is turning to a winning coach to talk about Leqvio and the struggles of high cholesterol — including his own. Bruce Arians, the retired NFL head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is partnering with the pharma for its “Coaching Cholesterol” digital, social and public relations effort.

In the campaign, Arians talks about the potential for “great comebacks” in football and heart health. Once nicknamed a “quarterback whisperer,” he is now retired from fulltime coaching (although still a front-office consultant for Tampa Bay), and did a round of media interviews for Novartis, including one with People and Forbes.

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Amy West, Novo Nordisk head of US digital innovation and transformation (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: No­vo Nordisk dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion chief Amy West dis­cuss­es phar­ma pain points and a health­care 'easy but­ton’

Amy West joined Novo Nordisk more than a decade ago to oversee marketing strategies and campaigns for its US diabetes portfolio. However, her career path shifted into digital, and she hasn’t looked back. West went from leading Novo’s first digital health strategy in the US to now heading up digital innovation and transformation.

She’s currently leading the charge at Novo Nordisk to not only go beyond the pill with digital marketing and health tech, but also test, pilot and develop groundbreaking new strategies needed in today’s consumerized healthcare world.

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Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Look­ing to push CAR-T in sol­id tu­mors, Bay Area biotech goes pub­lic in SPAC flip — with slight name change

SPACs might be slowly creeping back.

Monday evening, Estrella Biopharma said it was going public via a SPAC deal with TradeUP Acquisition Corp. The deal is set to close in the first half of 2023, and if all goes as planned, the public version of Estrella — dubbed Estrella Immunopharma — will be worth around $398.5 million.

The Bay Area biotech will also get around $45.4 million in cash, and TradeUp stockholders will get around 15% stock in the public biotech.