Amid Covid-19 hunt, Pfiz­er adds Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine in $308M deal with Val­ne­va

In the midst of their $500 mil­lion pro­gram to build a Covid-19 vac­cine with BioN­Tech, Pfiz­er has an­nounced a siz­able deal to com­mer­cial­ize a vac­cine for a far dif­fer­ent dis­ease.

Pfiz­er and Val­ne­va have agreed to an up-to $308 mil­lion deal on the French biotech’s Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine. The deal in­cludes a $130 mil­lion up­front pay­ment for Val­ne­va, whose can­di­date is now in Phase II. On top of that, there are mile­stones and ul­ti­mate­ly a 19% roy­al­ty on sales. Val­ne­va will still be in charge of 30% of the com­mer­cial­iza­tion costs.

Al­though the vac­cine mar­ket has been ail­ing for years, Pfiz­er has a block­buster in their pneu­mo­coc­cal vac­cine, Pre­vnar 13, and are in late stages on a suc­ces­sor vac­cine. The deal comes at a time of re­newed in­ter­est in the field, a phe­nom­e­non the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and the drug hunt around it have on­ly ac­cel­er­at­ed. Ear­li­er this month, Affini­vax raised $120 mil­lion in a Se­ries C, and in March, SutroVax raised $110 mil­lion for their at­tempt to ri­val Pfiz­er’s Pre­vnar 13 — both stan­dard sums these days for on­col­o­gy but large in the con­text of in­fec­tious dis­ease re­search.

The hunt for a Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine is decades old, dat­ing to not long af­ter the dis­cov­ery of the tick-born ill­ness and the bac­te­ria that caused it in the 1970s and 80s. In 1998, SmithK­line Beecham beat out Pas­teur Mérieux Con­naught (the Sanofi Pas­teur pre­de­ces­sor) and got LY­MEr­ix, a re­com­bi­nant DNA vac­cine that re­quired 3 shots and was about 80% ef­fec­tive, ap­proved by the FDA.

The ap­proval, though, dove­tailed with the be­gin­nings of the mod­ern an­ti-vac­ci­na­tion move­ment in the Unit­ed States. Grow­ing re­ports of joint pain and oth­er safe­ty com­plaints with the vac­cine led to a class ac­tion law­suit against SmithK­line. Al­though the suit was set­tled with­out com­pen­sa­tion and an FDA re­view found no ev­i­dence for arthri­tis or oth­er un­ex­pect­ed ad­verse ef­fects, sales dropped pre­cip­i­tous­ly. SmithK­line pulled the drug off the mar­ket in 2002, cit­ing poor com­mer­cial per­for­mance.

The con­tro­ver­sy set back the field con­sid­er­ably. Pas­teur Mérieux Con­naught nev­er ap­plied for their vac­cine. To­day, al­though you can in­oc­u­late your dog against Ly­me dis­ease, you can­not in­oc­u­late your­self or your kid.

Thomas Lin­gel­bach

Val­ne­va, cre­at­ed af­ter the failed Aus­tri­an vac­cine com­pa­ny In­ter­cell merged with the French biotech Vi­valis in 2012, be­gan work­ing on a Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine short­ly af­ter its birth. They claim to have the on­ly Ly­me dis­ease vac­cine in de­vel­op­ment.

The vac­cine, VLA15, tar­gets the six most com­mon types of Bor­re­lia bac­te­ria that cause Ly­me dis­ease, mak­ing it a po­ten­tial can­di­date for use across Eu­rope and North Amer­i­ca. It is a pro­tein sub­unit vac­cine, mean­ing it con­tains on­ly the anti­gens from the bac­te­ria that the body will make an­ti­bod­ies against. They have fast-track des­ig­na­tion and are ex­pect­ing re­sults from their Phase II by mid-2020. CEO Thomas Lin­gel­bach has said he ex­pects to bring the prod­uct to mar­ket in 4-5 years.

The num­ber of peo­ple di­ag­nosed with Ly­me dis­ease has ex­pand­ed con­sid­er­ably in Amer­i­ca and Eu­rope in the two decades since LY­MEx­is’s ap­proval, po­ten­tial­ly set­ting up a large mar­ket if the vac­cine is ap­proved.

So­cial: Thomas Lin­gel­bach, Val­ne­va CEO via YouTube

Da­ta Lit­er­a­cy: The Foun­da­tion for Mod­ern Tri­al Ex­e­cu­tion

In 2016, the International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) updated their “Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice.” One key shift was a mandate to implement a risk-based quality management system throughout all stages of a clinical trial, and to take a systematic, prioritized, risk-based approach to clinical trial monitoring—on-site monitoring, remote monitoring, or any combination thereof.

Pfiz­er's big block­buster Xel­janz flunks its post-mar­ket­ing safe­ty study, re­new­ing harsh ques­tions for JAK class

When the FDA approved Pfizer’s JAK inhibitor Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis in 2012, they slapped on a black box warning for a laundry list of adverse events and required the New York drugmaker to run a long-term safety study.

That study has since become a consistent headache for Pfizer and their blockbuster molecule. Last year, Pfizer dropped the entire high dose cohort after an independent monitoring board found more patients died in that group than in the low dose arm or a control arm of patients who received one of two TNF inhibitors, Enbrel or Humira.

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Top gene ther­a­py deals, M&A pacts in 2020 high­light an­oth­er big year in one of the hottest fields in bio­phar­ma

Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma has been crunching the numbers on gene therapy deals over the last 2 years and came away with a few key observations.

Both the upfront cash and deal totals last year backed off a bit from the record high hit in 2019, but the totals are still running well ahead of anything we’ve seen in the years prior to 2019/2020.
2020 R&D partnerships came in at 23 deals, with $1.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $8.5 billion in total deal value. Looking at 2019-2020 M&A, Dokomajilar found: 9 Acquisitions, with over $11.1 billion in disclosed upfront cash and equity and more than $13.4 billion in total M&A value.

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Steve Harr (L) and Hans Bishop

One of the most am­bi­tious start­up teams in biotech just out­lined plans for a $400M IPO and a val­u­a­tion of about $4B

The executive team at Sana Biotechnology has sketched out more details about the full scope of its ambitions as the new unicorn to watch. They amended their S-1 today to include a price range of $20 to $23 a share — which puts them in reach of pulling in around $400 million on the high end with a market value starting right around $4 billion.

That’s not bad for a preclinical biotech with no drugs yet in human studies, but it squares with its ambitions to remake the cell therapy field with a slate of in-house platforms. The biotech raised $705 million — primarily from ARCH (44 million shares) and Flagship (34.2 million shares) — to get to this stage.

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Bob Nelsen (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

ARCH an­nounces largest fund yet, rais­ing $1.85B to back men­tal health, cell and gene edit­ing ap­proach­es

Nearly a year ago, as the pandemic encroached and the stock market cratered, Flagship and ARCH Venture announced three mega-funds worth a combined $2.6 billion. They wanted, ARCH’s Bob Nelsen said, to restore confidence “that there was money out there and a lot of it” to invest in biotech.

Since then, the stock market has returned — almost frighteningly so — and Nelsen has kept raising and spending cash. On Thursday, he announced a new fund, worth $1.85 billion. It’s the largest pot yet for a VC famous for its deep pockets.

Dean Li kicks off Mer­ck­'s post-Roger Perl­mut­ter era by team­ing with Arti­va and its off-the-shelf CAR-NK tech

Even though Dean Li has now officially taken over for Roger Perlmutter as R&D chief, Merck’s appetite for dealmaking continues to be ravenous.

Li struck his first big deal at the helm Thursday morning, hammering out a collaboration with Artiva Biotherapeutics that could earn the biotech nearly $1.9 billion when all is said and done. It’s a quick rise and validation for Artiva, which just last June launched with a $78 million Series A.

Covid-19 roundup: EU and As­traZeneca trade blows over slow­downs; Un­usu­al unions pop up to test an­ti­bod­ies, vac­cines

After coming under fire for manufacturing delays last week, AstraZeneca’s feud with the European Union has spilled into the open.

The bloc accused the pharma giant on Wednesday of pulling out of a meeting to discuss cuts to its vaccine supplies, the AP reported. AstraZeneca denied the reports, saying it still planned on attending the discussion.

Early Wednesday, an EU Commission spokeswoman said that “the representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, is not happening.” But an AstraZeneca spokesperson later called the reports “not accurate.”

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

Ad­vo­ca­cy groups don't want Janet Wood­cock to head the FDA, blast­ing ‘reg­u­la­to­ry fail­ures’ in opi­oid cri­sis

It turns out the controversies around Janet Woodcock’s regulatory legacy weren’t limited to Sarepta’s eteplirsen.

A coalition of advocacy groups dedicated to the opioid crisis urged Norris Cochran and Xavier Becerra — the acting and designated HHS secretary, respectively — to keep her reign as interim FDA chief a “very short transition.” During her lengthy tenure as CDER, they add, Woodcock presided over “one of the worst regulatory agency failures in U.S. history.”

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Take­da earns win for its TKI in­hibitor in tiny lung can­cer group — but GI side ef­fects could be an ear­ly red flag

Japanese drugmaker Takeda has made a big push in recent years to build a hand in oncology, particularly in the next-gen cancer space. One of those candidates, tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) mobocertinib, recently earned the FDA’s interest in a small section of untreated lung cancer patients, but will severe GI side effects be a roadblock?

Takeda’s oral mobocertinib posted clinically significant objective response rates in a Phase I/II adaptive trial drugging metastatic non-small cell lung cancer patients with EGFR exon 20 gene mutations who had previously undergone platinum-based chemotherapy, according to data presented Thursday at the virtual World Conference on Lung Cancer.