Am­gen sharp­ens fo­cus on ge­net­ic se­quenc­ing with $66M in­vest­ment

Re­in­forc­ing its abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy and val­i­date dis­ease tar­gets, Am­gen $AMGN on Thurs­day said it would fork out £50 mil­lion ($66 mil­lion) to buy shares in pri­vate­ly-held Ox­ford Nanopore Tech­nolo­gies, which has de­vel­oped the first portable DNA/RNA se­quencer and has so far raised near­ly half a bil­lion pounds in fund­ing.

The new in­vest­ment builds on Am­gen’s ac­qui­si­tion of de­CODE Ge­net­ics back in 2012 for $415 mil­lion.

Kári Ste­fáns­son

The Ox­ford, UK-based com­pa­ny, found­ed in 2005, aims to en­able the “ge­net­ic analy­sis of any liv­ing thing, by any per­son, in any en­vi­ron­ment” and is cur­rent­ly val­ued at £1.5 bil­lion. Ox­ford Nanopore’s tech­nol­o­gy uti­lizes nanopores — nano-scale holes made by pro­teins con­tained with­in a syn­thet­ic mem­brane — in com­bi­na­tion with elec­tron­ics to per­form re­al-time DNA and RNA se­quenc­ing for a range of bi­o­log­i­cal re­search ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing large scale hu­man ge­nomics, can­cer and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search.

It took over a decade and near­ly $3 bil­lion for sci­en­tists to se­quence the first hu­man genome back in 2003.

De­spite ad­vances in gene-se­quenc­ing plat­forms, in­clud­ing prod­ucts of­fered by Il­lu­mi­na $ILMN, most tech­nolo­gies typ­i­cal­ly de­liv­er a bo­lus of da­ta at the end of a fixed “run” that may be hours or days long. Ox­ford Nanopore’s se­quencers, how­ev­er, pro­vide in­for­ma­tion in re­al time, which could be cru­cial in the field of di­ag­nos­tics, for ex­am­ple. The com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy is al­so scal­able, un­like many of the bulky de­vices sold by Il­lu­mi­na and Pa­cif­ic Bio­sciences $PACB, rang­ing from pock­et sized to bench-top de­vices. In ad­di­tion, the com­pa­ny’s tech­nol­o­gy se­quences what­ev­er length frag­ment you give it, un­like tra­di­tion­al short read tech­nolo­gies that are pow­ered to se­quence small frag­ments of DNA, typ­i­cal­ly 150-300 bases.

In fact, Il­lu­mi­na it­self is an in­vestor and part­ner of Ox­ford Nanopore, hav­ing joined a cou­ple of fund­ing rounds and inked a mar­ket­ing deal be­tween 2009 and 2010.

“Ox­ford Nanopore’s long-read se­quenc­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ty cre­ates a win­dow in­to parts of the genome that have been out of reach, as well as giv­ing us a much bet­ter han­dle on struc­tur­al vari­ants that con­fer risk of a wide va­ri­ety of dis­eases,” said Kári Ste­fáns­son, founder of Am­gen sub­sidiary de­CODE Ge­net­ics, which has been us­ing Ox­ford Nanopore’s tech­nol­o­gy.

The com­pa­ny, whose prod­ucts are in use in over 80 coun­tries, has raised £451 mil­lion in fund­ing thus far.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

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On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.