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.”

Health­care Dis­par­i­ties and Sick­le Cell Dis­ease

In the complicated U.S. healthcare system, navigating a serious illness such as cancer or heart disease can be remarkably challenging for patients and caregivers. When that illness is classified as a rare disease, those challenges can become even more acute. And when that rare disease occurs in a population that experiences health disparities, such as people with sickle cell disease (SCD) who are primarily Black and Latino, challenges can become almost insurmountable.

David Meek, new Mirati CEO (Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fresh off Fer­Gene's melt­down, David Meek takes over at Mi­rati with lead KRAS drug rac­ing to an ap­proval

In the insular world of biotech, a spectacular failure can sometimes stay on any executive’s record for a long time. But for David Meek, the man at the helm of FerGene’s recent implosion, two questionable exits made way for what could be an excellent rebound.

Meek, most recently FerGene’s CEO and a past head at Ipsen, has become CEO at Mirati Therapeutics, taking the reins from founding CEO Charles Baum, who will step over into the role of president and head of R&D, according to a release.

Dave Lennon, former president of Novartis Gene Therapies

Zol­gens­ma patent spat brews be­tween No­var­tis and Re­genxbio as top No­var­tis gene ther­a­py ex­ec de­parts

Regenxbio, a small licensor of gene therapy viral vectors spun out from the University of Pennsylvania, is now finding itself in the middle of some major league patent fights.

In addition to a patent suit with Sarepta Therapeutics from last September, Novartis, is now trying to push its smaller partner out of the way. The Swiss biopharma licensed Regenxbio’s AAV9 vector for its $2.1 million spinal muscular atrophy therapy Zolgensma.

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Rafaèle Tordjman (Jeito Capital)

Con­ti­nu­ity and di­ver­si­ty: Rafaèle Tord­j­man's women-led VC firm tops out first fund at $630M

For a first-time fund, Jeito Capital talks a lot about continuity.

Rafaèle Tordjman had spotlighted that concept ever since she started building the firm in 2018, promising to go the extra mile(s) with biotech entrepreneurs while pushing them to reach patients faster.

Coincidentally, the lack of continuity was one of the sore spots listed in a report about the European healthcare sector published that same year by the European Investment Bank — whose fund is one of the LPs, alongside the American pension fund Teacher Retirement System of Texas and Singapore’s Temasek, to help Jeito close its first fund at $630 million (€534 million). As previously reported, Sanofi had chimed in €50 million, marking its first investment in a French life sciences fund.

Time for round 2: Il­lu­mi­na-backed VC snags $325M for its next fund

Illumina Ventures closed off its second investment fund with a total commitment of $325 million, offering fresh fuel to back a slate of startups that have already included a smorgasbord of companies, covering everything from diagnostics to biotech drug development and genomics.

Fund II brings the total investment under Illumina Ventures’ oversight to $560 million, which has been focused on early-stage companies. And it has a transatlantic portfolio that includes SQZ, Twist and Encoded Therapeutics.

Volker Wagner (L) and Jeff Legos

As Bay­er, No­var­tis stack up their ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal da­ta at #ES­MO21, a key de­bate takes shape

Ten years ago, a small Norwegian biotech by the name of Algeta showed up at ESMO — then the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference 2011 — and declared that its Bayer-partnered targeted radionuclide therapy, radium-223 chloride, boosted the overall survival of castration-resistant prostate cancer patients with symptomatic bone metastases.

In a Phase III study dubbed ALSYMPCA, patients who were treated with radium-223 chloride lived a median of 14 months compared to 11.2 months. The FDA would stamp an approval on it based on those data two years later, after Bayer snapped up Algeta and christened the drug Xofigo.

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Ex­elix­is pulls a sur­prise win in thy­roid can­cer just days ahead of fi­nal Cabome­tyx read­out

Exelixis added a thyroid cancer indication to its super-seller Cabometyx’s label on Friday — months before the FDA was expected to make a decision, and days before the company was set to unveil the final data at #ESMO21.

At a median follow-up of 10.1 months, differentiated thyroid cancer patients treated with Cabometyx (cabozantinib) lived a median of 11 months without their disease worsening, compared to just 1.9 months for patients given a placebo, Exelixis said on Monday.

Raju Mohan, Ventyx Biosciences CEO

Months af­ter a mam­moth raise, Ven­tyx Bio­sciences dips back in­to ven­ture well

Several months after emerging from what CEO Raju Mohan called “quiet mode” with a mammoth $114 million raise, Ventyx Biosciences is now making its plans for the clinic loud and clear.

The California-based immune modulation player kicked the week off with a $51 million Series B, while also naming some key hires ahead of its big clinical push.

The CMO slot is going to Jörn Drappa, former CMO at Viela Bio before it was bought out by Horizon Therapeutics earlier this year. The AstraZeneca vet stayed on at Horizon for a while as executive VP of R&D before making the jump to Ventyx.

Mi­rati tri­umphs again in KRAS-mu­tat­ed lung can­cer with a close­ly watched FDA fil­ing now in the cards

After a busy weekend at #ESMO21, which included a big readout for its KRAS drug adagrasib in colon cancer, Mirati Therapeutics is ready to keep the pressure on competitor Amgen with lung cancer data that will undergird an upcoming filing.

In topline results from a Phase II cohort of its KRYSTAL-1 study, adagrasib posted a response rate of 43% in second-line-or-later patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer containing a KRAS-G12C mutation, Mirati said Monday.