Yaron Pereg, KAHR CEO

An Is­raeli biotech is look­ing to make its name in the jam-packed CD47 space. Is bi­func­tion­al­i­ty the an­swer?

Jerusalem’s KAHR Med­ical had been work­ing on fu­sion pro­teins for au­toim­mune dis­or­ders for about 10 years, be­fore “is­sues in de­vel­op­ment” spurred then-new CEO Yaron Pereg to change gears in 2017.

“We had done our gap analy­sis and thought, ‘This is a very cool tech­nol­o­gy and very in­ter­est­ing plat­form, why won’t we start from scratch, do things dif­fer­ent and al­so se­lect more nov­el tar­gets?’” he said.

The com­pa­ny with­drew a Phase I/II ap­pli­ca­tion for its lead can­di­date, KAHR-102, be­fore any pa­tients were en­rolled, and shift­ed to im­muno-on­col­o­gy.

“Back then, you know, end of 2017, CD47 was not that at­trac­tive or as val­i­dat­ed as it is to­day,” Pereg said. “Every­body went af­ter adap­tive im­mune cells — PD-1, PD-L1, CAR-Ts — and we thought the in­nate im­mune side of things could be very in­ter­est­ing.”

On Wednes­day, KAHR un­veiled its sec­ond fi­nanc­ing since the big piv­ot, rak­ing in $46.5 mil­lion to ad­vance its lead pro­gram, a CD47x41BB tar­get­ing fu­sion pro­tein called DSP107. The com­pa­ny’s al­so set­ting some mon­ey aside to push two pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates — a TIG­ITx­PD1 fu­sion pro­tein and a LIL­RB2xSIR­Pa fu­sion pro­tein — through IND-en­abling stud­ies.

aMoon led the round, with some help from BVF Part­ners LP, DAF­NA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment LLC, Pere­grine Ven­tures, Shav­it Cap­i­tal, the Can­cer Fo­cus Fund, Flerie In­vest AB, Oriel­la Lim­it­ed, Pavil­ion Cap­i­tal, Had­a­sit Bio Hold­ings Ltd and Mi­rae As­set.

KAHR’s can­di­dates are de­signed to con­vert can­cer’s cam­ou­flage in­to a bea­con for the im­mune sys­tem to at­tack. Like oth­er can­di­dates in the space, DSP107 does so by bind­ing to CD47 and block­ing its in­fa­mous “don’t eat me sig­nal.”

Com­pe­ti­tion is stiff: Gilead’s $4.9 bil­lion bet on Forty Sev­en last year ap­peared to trig­ger a wave of Big Phar­mas join­ing the hunt for an ef­fec­tive CD47 drug, in­clud­ing Ab­b­Vie and Pfiz­er. Boehringer In­gel­heim jumped on the band­wag­on ear­ly, snag­ging the rights to a can­di­date from OSE Im­munother­a­peu­tics back in 2018. Gilead’s ma­grolimab snared fast track des­ig­na­tion last Sep­tem­ber. And just a cou­ple of months ago, Arch On­col­o­gy reeled in $105 mil­lion to fu­el its CD47 mis­sion.

Where KAHR stands out, Pereg says, is that its fu­sion pro­tein is bi­func­tion­al. It si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly binds to 41BB on T-cells. So while weak­en­ing the tu­mor’s de­fens­es, it’s al­so de­signed to ac­ti­vate a nat­ur­al and adap­tive im­mune re­sponse, the CEO said.

Up­on com­plet­ing the safe­ty por­tion of the Phase I/II study “in the com­ing months,” Pereg plans to launch the can­di­date in­to two ef­fi­ca­cy pro­grams: One test­ing DSP107 as a monother­a­py and in com­bi­na­tion with Roche’s PD-L1 drug Tecen­triq in ad­vanced sol­id tu­mors; and an­oth­er test­ing DSP107 alone and in com­bi­na­tion with azac­i­ti­dine or azac­i­ti­dine plus vene­to­clax in pa­tients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodys­plas­tic syn­drome (MDS) and T-cell lym­pho­pro­lif­er­a­tive dis­eases.

Both the pre­clin­i­cal can­di­dates should be ready for IND sub­mis­sion by the end of 2022, ac­cord­ing to Pereg.

“Can­cer treat­ment is chal­leng­ing in that can­cer cells con­tin­u­ous­ly change and de­vel­op re­sis­tance to ex­ist­ing treat­ments,” he said in a state­ment, adding that the com­pa­ny’s can­di­dates could ben­e­fit pa­tients who are non-re­spon­sive or re­frac­to­ry to ex­ist­ing im­munother­a­pies.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Bosch Health Campus)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs since 2020.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Marisol Peron, Genmab SVP of communications and corporate affairs

Gen­mab launch­es cor­po­rate cam­paign am­pli­fy­ing its ‘knock your socks off’ an­ti­bod­ies

Genmab often talks about its “knock-your-socks-off” antibodies — and now the term is getting its own logo and corporate campaign.

The teal and purple logo for the acronym KYSO — Genmab pronounces it “ky-so” — debuts on Wednesday and comes on the heels of Genmab’s newly announced 2030 vision. That aspiration aims to expand Genmab’s drug development beyond oncology to include other serious diseases, while also doubling down on its own drug development.

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Kate Haviland, Blueprint Medicines CEO

Blue­print met all its end­points in bid for ex­pand­ed Ay­vak­it la­bel — but stock trends low­er any­way

Blueprint Medicines announced this morning that the second part of its study on Ayvakit in non-advanced systemic mastocytosis (SM) — a rare disease in which a type of white blood cells known as mast cells builds up — met all endpoints, but the biopharma left key questions unanswered.

In 212 patients, with 141 in the treatment arm and 71 in the control arm, patients who got Ayvakit saw an average 15.6-point decrease in their symptom scores compared to a 9.2-point decrease in the placebo arm at 24 weeks. In an extension study, those on Ayvakit saw their symptom scores drop by 20.2 points by week 48.