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.

Late Fri­day ap­proval; Trio of biotechs wind down; Stem cell pi­o­neer finds new fron­tier; Biotech icon to re­tire; 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.

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Pfiz­er lays off em­ploy­ees at Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut sites

Pfizer has laid off employees at its La Jolla, CA, and Groton, CT sites, according to multiple LinkedIn posts from former employees.

The Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News it has let go of some employees, but a spokesperson declined to specify how many workers were impacted and the exact locations affected. Earlier this month, the drug developer had confirmed to Endpoints it was sharpening its focus and doing away with some early research on areas such as rare disease, oncology and gene therapies.

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Rodney Rietze, iVexSol CEO

Bris­tol My­ers, Charles Riv­er join Se­ries A fund­ing for iVex­Sol

Massachusetts-based iVexSol has secured funding to the tune of $23.8 million in its latest Series A round. The new investors include Bristol Myers Squibb, manufacturer Charles River Laboratories and Asahi Kasei Medical.

iVexSol is a manufacturer of lentiviral vectors (LVV), used in making gene therapies, and this latest round of fundraising brings its total Series A total over $39 million, which will be used to recruit more employees and bolster its technology.

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Jake Van Naarden, Loxo@Lilly CEO

Lil­ly en­ters ripe BTK field with quick FDA nod in man­tle cell lym­phoma

Eli Lilly has succeeded in its attempt to get the first non-covalent version of Bruton’s tyrosine kinase, or BTK, inhibitors to market, pushing it past rival Merck.

The FDA gave an accelerated nod to Lilly’s daily oral med, to be sold as Jaypirca, for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.

The agency’s green light, disclosed by the Indianapolis Big Pharma on Friday afternoon, catapults Lilly into a field dominated by covalent BTK inhibitors, which includes AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, AstraZeneca’s Calquence and BeiGene’s Brukinsa.

Filip Dubovsky, Novavax CMO

No­vavax gets ready to take an­oth­er shot at Covid vac­cine mar­ket with next sea­son plans

While mRNA took center stage at yesterday’s FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting, Novavax announced its plans to deliver an updated protein-based vaccine based on new guidance.

Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) members voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all future vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

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Eliot Forster, F-star CEO (Rachel Kiki for Endpoints News)

F-star gets down to the wire with $161M sale to Chi­nese buy­er as na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty con­cerns linger

With the clock ticking on F-star Therapeutics’ takeover by a Chinese buyer, the companies are still scrambling to remove a hold on the deal from the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

F-star and invoX Pharma said they are “actively negotiating” with CFIUS “about the terms of a mitigation agreement to address CFIUS’s concerns regarding potential national security risks posed by the transaction.”

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CBER Director Peter Marks (Susan Walsh/AP Images)

FDA ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee votes unan­i­mous­ly in fa­vor of bi­va­lent Covid shots re­plac­ing pri­ma­ry se­ries

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously in favor of “harmonizing” Covid vaccine compositions, meaning all current vaccine recipients would receive a bivalent vaccine, regardless of whether they’ve gotten their primary series.

The vote marks an effort to clear up confusion around varying formulations and dosing schedules for current primary series and booster vaccines, as well as “get closer to the strains that are circulating,” according to committee member Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

John Rim, Samsung Biologics CEO (Samsung/PR Newswire)

Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics spells out ex­pan­sion plans in South Ko­rea and US

The CDMO arm of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates has posted its year-end results and plans for 2023, which include new construction.

Samsung Biologics netted north of KRW 3 trillion ($2.4 billion) in 2022 revenue and an operating profit of KRW 983.6 billion ($799 million), which the company touted on Friday as “record-high earnings.” The revenue boost was 55% compared to 2021.

No­var­tis' ap­proved sick­le cell dis­ease drug fails to beat place­bo in PhI­II

Novartis’ sickle cell drug, approved in 2019 and branded as Adakveo, has failed an ongoing Phase III, according to preliminary results.

The Swiss pharma giant unveiled early data from the ongoing STAND Phase III study on Friday, saying that crizanlizumab showed no statistically significant difference between the drug at two different dose levels compared to placebo in annualized rates of vaso-occlusive crises that lead to a healthcare visit over the first year since being randomized into the trial.