Jean-François Pariseau (left) and Dion Madsen (Amplitude)

Am­pli­tude rais­es $50M to fu­el ‘emerg­ing’ Cana­di­an biotech field

Nine months and an IPO since they spun out the Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Bank of Cana­da’s health­care arm in­to its own VC, the in­vestors be­hind Am­pli­tude have raised an­oth­er $50 mil­lion to pour in­to Cana­da’s nascent biotech sec­tor.

The new round, part of the CAD $200 mil­lion the firm is try­ing to raise for its first fund, will go pri­mar­i­ly to­ward two ar­eas: what founders Jean-François Pariseau and Dion Mad­sen see as an “emerg­ing” tar­get­ed and cell ther­a­py field in Van­cou­ver and an emerg­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence field in Mon­tre­al. Sim­i­lar to some of the big­ger name VCs to their south, the part­ners will try to find promis­ing sci­ence out of aca­d­e­m­ic and in­no­va­tion cen­ters in the two metro ar­eas, pack­age them with some com­ple­men­tary and de-risk­ing in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and some new tal­ent, and spin out biotechs.

”There are clus­ters emerg­ing in Cana­da around tar­get­ed and cel­lu­lar ther­a­py in Van­cou­ver and around AI in Toron­to or Mon­tre­al, and those would be ar­eas where we would” in­vest, Mad­sen told End­points News. “Typ­i­cal­ly, we’re look­ing for re­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant in­no­va­tions.”

Around 30% of the fund will al­so go to lat­er-stage medtech com­pa­nies.

As proof for the mod­el, Am­pli­tude is now tout­ing the suc­cess of the syn­thet­ic lethal­i­ty com­pa­ny Re­pare Ther­a­peu­tics, which in June raised $220 mil­lion in one of the largest IPOs in Cana­di­an biotech his­to­ry. It’s a bit of a bold claim, though, giv­en that Am­pli­tude — then still un­der the aus­pices of the BDAC — was just one of sev­er­al in­vestors in the Ver­sant-launched com­pa­ny’s Se­ries B last year, and that the biotech’s pub­lic of­fer­ing came as part of an un­prece­dent­ed biotech stock mar­ket boom.

Still, for Mad­sen and Pariseau, it’s val­i­da­tion that there is bil­lion-dol­lar sci­ence to be found in Cana­da for those who know how to build it.

Per­haps the most promi­nent ex­am­ple of that has come in the past few months in the form of a dif­fer­ent com­pa­ny, Ab­Cellera. Long a lit­tle-known play­er that helped gov­ern­ments, biotechs and Big Phar­ma build an­ti­bod­ies, the com­pa­ny emerged at the front of the Covid-19 treat­ment hunt af­ter they signed a part­ner­ship with Eli Lil­ly in March to de­vel­op neu­tral­iz­ing an­ti­bod­ies for the coro­n­avirus. They lat­er emerged as the first com­pa­ny to bring a neu­tral­iz­ing an­ti­body in­to the clin­ic, and they se­cured a $105 mil­lion Se­ries B from a hand­ful of big name in­vestors on the way.

Mad­sen said they had been watch­ing Ab­Cellera since 2013, short­ly af­ter its launch, en­cour­ag­ing them to de­vel­op their own com­pounds. They put in of­fers for both last year’s Se­ries A, but they were still in for­ma­tion at the time and Ab­Cellera took an of­fer from DCVC. They were one of many to put in an of­fer for the Se­ries B.

”We were out­bid,” he said.

When it comes to AI com­pa­nies, the firm will fo­cus on those that look a bit more like the biotechs that have their own wet labs and de­vel­op­ment pipelines, such as Daphne Koller’s In­sitro, than the ones that just use ad­vance al­go­rithms to search out mol­e­cules, such as Atom­wise. The first ex­am­ple of that, Mad­sen said, was Deep Ge­nomics. They joined a $40 mil­lion Se­ries B for the biotech in Jan­u­ary.

“I think AI is be­com­ing more and more gen­er­a­tive as a tech­nol­o­gy, and more wide­ly used. To me, it’s kind of the next evo­lu­tion,” Pariseau told End­points. “And it’s al­so cheap­er.”

Daphne Koller, Getty

Bris­tol My­er­s' Richard Har­g­reaves pays $70M to launch a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion al­liance with a star play­er in the ma­chine learn­ing world

Bristol Myers Squibb is turning to one of the star upstarts in the machine learning world to go back to the drawing board and come up with the disease models needed to find drugs that can work against two of the toughest targets in the neuro world.

Daphne Koller’s well-funded insitro is getting $70 million in cash and near-term milestones to use their machine learning platform to create induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models for ALS and frontotemporal dementia.

Q32 Bio grabs $60M to kick off hu­man stud­ies for next-gen com­ple­ment drugs — with some Covid-19 tweaks along the way

For a company that launched in the early months of the pandemic, Q32 Bio had its fair share of run-ins with the new normals under Covid-19.

The original plan, for instance, was to conduct first-in-human studies of the IL-7 receptor antibody it licensed from Bristol Myers Squibb in the Netherlands. But they realized shortly after that while the country was beginning to open up clinical trials, there were additional restrictions on drugs that tampered with immunological mechanisms.

Konstantin Poukalov

Per­cep­tive re­cruits A-list in­vestors to back its in-house Chi­na start­up with a mam­moth $310M raise

It took two years for Perceptive Advisors to conceive and boot up LianBio, its big bet on a new kind of in-licensing model for China, seeding it with enough cash to set up two anchoring deals with MyoKardia and BridgeBio. The result was a startup that was all ready to go, reaping $310 million just a little over two months after official launch.

Homegrown Chinese biotechs — many of them boasting of US ties and execs with overseas credentials — have been raking in mega-venture rounds in 2020, both from influential local backers and overseas VC firms that have been loading up new cash. As with IPOs, the deal flow might be slower but the amounts are often more staggering. LianBio’s latest round, unusually, is branded both a Series A and crossover.

Ar­cus and As­traZeneca part­ner on a high stakes an­ti-TIG­IT/PD-L1 PhI­II can­cer study, look­ing to im­prove on a stan­dard of care

For AstraZeneca, the PACIFIC trial in Stage III non-small cell lung cancer remains one of the big triumphs for AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group. It not only made their PD-L1 Imfinzi a franchise player with a solid advance in a large niche of the lung cancer market, the study — which continues to offer data on the long-range efficacy of their drug — also helped salve the vicious sting of the failure of the CTLA-4 combo in the MYSTIC study.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks at the Rose Garden, May 26, 2020 (Evan Vucci/AP Images)

Eli Lil­ly lines up a block­buster deal for Covid-19 an­ti­body, right af­ter it failed a NI­AID tri­al

Two days after Eli Lilly conceded that its antibody bamlanivimab was a flop in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the US government is preparing to make it a blockbuster.

The pharma giant reported early Wednesday that it struck a deal to supply the feds with 300,000 vials of the drug at a cost of $375 million — once it gets an EUA stamp from the FDA. And once that 2-month supply deal is done, the government has an option on another 650,000 doses on the same terms — which could potentially add another $812 million.

No­var­tis buys a new gene ther­a­py for vi­sion loss, and this is one pre­clin­i­cal ven­ture that did­n't come cheap

Cyrus Mozayeni got excited when he began to explore the academic work of Ehud Isacoff and John G. Flannery at UC Berkeley.

Together, they were engaged in finding a gene therapy approach to pan-genotypic vision restoration in patients with photoreceptor-based blindness, potentially restoring the vision of a broad group of patients. And they did it by using a vector to deliver the genetic sequence for light sensing proteins.

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Hal Barron, GSK R&D chief

GSK's Hal Bar­ron ax­es a once-prized drug from J&J, con­tin­u­ing shift away from res­pi­ra­to­ry

Hal Barron’s revamp of the GlaxoSmithKline pipeline continued yesterday, as the British pharma announced they axed an asthma drug they once promised over $200 million to acquire.

Then led by CEO Andrew Witty and R&D chief Patrick Vallance, GSK picked up the drug, known elegantly as GSK3772847, from J&J in 2016, hoping to expand on the beachhead in asthma they had established the year prior with Breo Ellipta. They promised up to $227 million in upfront payments and milestones.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Getty Images)

Covid-19 roundup: Mod­er­na posts $1.1B in Covid-19 vac­cine de­posits; Gilead CEO sees po­ten­tial need for Vek­lury on a 'sea­son­al ba­sis'

Moderna’s $MRNA executive team is clearly itching to get a near-term EUA for their Covid-19 vaccine.

The mRNA wunderkind posted an update on their pivotal trial for mRNA-1273, with a note that they have $1.1 billion in customer deposits for the vaccine.

Right now Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel and his team are neck-and-neck with Pfizer/BioNTech in a race to unveil data on what could be the first vaccines for the pandemic. And he is not one to downplay the company’s prospects.

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CMO Merdad Parsey (Gilead)

Gilead hits the brakes on a tri­fec­ta of mid- and late-stage stud­ies for their trou­bled fil­go­tinib pro­gram. It's up to the FDA now

Gilead $GILD execs haven’t decided exactly what to do with filgotinib in the wake of the slapdown at the FDA on their rheumatoid arthritis application, but they’re taking a time out for a slate of studies until they can gain some clarity from the agency. And without encouraging guidance, this drug could clearly be axed from the pipeline.

In their Q3 report out Wednesday afternoon, the company says researchers have “paused” a Phase III study for psoriatic arthritis along with a pair of Phase II trials for ankylosing spondylitis and uveitis. Late-stage studies for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s are continuing, but you can see for yourself how big a hole this leaves in the inflammatory disease pipeline, with obvious implications if the company abandons filgo altogether.

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