Juergen Horn

An­i­mal health vet Juer­gen Horn makes new an­ti­body play for pets, rak­ing $15M in Se­ries A haul

Zoetis forked over $85 mil­lion in 2017 to ac­quire Nexvet Bio­phar­ma and its pipeline of mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies. Juer­gen Horn, Nexvet’s for­mer chief prod­uct de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, has now se­cured $15 mil­lion for his own bi­o­log­ic com­pa­ny for an­i­mals: In­vetx.

Buoyed by emerg­ing ad­vances in gene ther­a­pies for hu­mans, sci­en­tists have start­ed look­ing at har­ness­ing the tech­nol­o­gy for an­i­mals set­ting up com­pa­nies such as Penn-part­nered Scout Bio and George Church-found­ed Re­ju­ve­nate Bio. But akin to Nexvet, In­vetx is work­ing on lever­ag­ing the time-test­ed sci­ence of mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies to treat chron­ic dis­eases that af­flict man’s best friend.

“(T)his is proven tech­nol­o­gy and has the high­est chance of suc­cess — the dis­cov­ery plat­forms are val­i­dat­ed, the man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­vel­op­ment is rel­a­tive­ly ex­plored and there is a clear path to bring these prod­ucts to mar­ket, and then we can make them af­ford­able,” Horn not­ed in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

The an­i­mal health field can be lu­cra­tive, with 67% of US house­holds, or about 85 mil­lion fam­i­lies, own­ing a pet, ac­cord­ing to the 2019-2020 sur­vey con­duct­ed by the Amer­i­can Pet Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion.

So far there is on­ly one re­com­bi­nant pro­tein drug, an an­ti­body, avail­able for vet­eri­nary use in the Unit­ed States and Eu­rope. The glob­al an­i­mal health med­i­cines and vac­cines mar­ket was es­ti­mat­ed to be worth $34 bil­lion in 2019, ac­cord­ing to In­vetx.

The prices of the species-spe­cif­ic prod­ucts In­vetx is de­vel­op­ing should re­flect the price tags of ex­ist­ing ther­a­pies for an­i­mals — which typ­i­cal­ly range from some­where be­tween $50 and $120 for a month­ly in­jectable, ex­clud­ing the vet’s fees, Horn said.

He did not dis­close Boston-based In­vetx’s pipeline, ex­cept to say that the com­pa­ny’s lead prod­uct would en­ter clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment in 2020 and that In­vetx is fo­cus­ing on fields such as al­ler­gy, pain and can­cer.

“We do not have our own labs, we do not plan to bring tech­nolo­gies in house and try to copy and re­peat what has been es­tab­lished on the hu­man side. We feel that it’s much more ef­fi­cient to have the ex­perts do the ac­tu­al re­search,” he added.

Horn, a vet­eri­nary sur­geon by train­ing, has pre­vi­ous­ly al­so worked with Elan­co and No­var­tis An­i­mal Health.

Along with the $15 mil­lion round, led by found­ing in­vestor, An­ter­ra Cap­i­tal, In­vetx al­so re­vealed col­lab­o­ra­tions with WuXi Bi­o­log­ics to help with man­u­fac­tur­ing as well as Ab­Cellera to ac­cel­er­ate its pre­clin­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties us­ing the Van­cou­ver-based com­pa­ny’s plat­form for an­ti­body dis­cov­ery.

“I don’t think we can ever reach the same qual­i­ty and ca­pa­bil­i­ties that for ex­am­ple, our part­ner Ab­cellera, can achieve in their plat­form. They ob­vi­ous­ly work for Big Phar­ma com­pa­nies that do that every day,” he said.

“With WuXi, it’s even clear­er there. We could nev­er set up our own man­u­fac­tur­ing at the same scale in the same ex­per­tise lev­el that a glob­al CMO can do that. And that leads to bet­ter prod­ucts and al­so re­duced costs. That’s at least the plan.”

And con­sol­i­da­tion is ripe in the space, as in­dus­try play­ers look to ex­pand their mar­ket share across ge­o­gra­phies and in tan­gen­tial busi­ness­es to low­er ex­po­sure to any one re­gion, prod­uct line or species. In Au­gust, Eli Lil­ly spin­off Elan­co dis­closed it was pur­chas­ing Bay­er’s vet­eri­nary unit in a deal worth $7.6 bil­lion cre­at­ing the sec­ond-largest an­i­mal health com­pa­ny in the field.

In 2018, Elan­co gen­er­at­ed sales of about $3.1 bil­lion, while Bay­er’s AH unit raked in about $1.6 bil­lion. The lead­ing firm in the sec­tor — Zoetis — brought in rough­ly $5.8 bil­lion in sales.

Ven­ture Cap­i­tal as a Strate­gic Part­ner: Fu­el­ing In­no­va­tion be­yond Fi­nance

The average level of investment required for a biotech start-up to succeed is increasing every year, elevating the pressure even further on venture capital to make smart financial investments. Financial investment alone, however, does not always guarantee that exciting innovations can be transformed into real businesses that make a meaningful difference to patients.

Beyond just capital

At Astellas Venture Management (AVM) – a wholly-owned venture capital organization within Astellas, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area – capital is just one of the ingredients we offer to add value to our biotechnology investments and partnerships. We generally take a strategic investor approach for companies in our invested portfolio, providing access to expertise, technology and/or resources in addition to the injection of finance. An equity investment from AVM can include access to Astellas’ research and development (R&D) capabilities and expertise, and a global network of partner academic institutions and biotechnology companies, to help advance and accelerate the start-up’s innovation.

UP­DAT­ED: Ver­tex joins Mer­ck, Pfiz­er — re­vamp­ing multi­bil­lion-dol­lar tri­al strat­e­gy as biotech R&D crum­bles

You can add Pfizer, Merck and — as we found out Friday morning — Vertex to the growing list of pharma giants hitting the pause button on a range of clinical trials. But not everyone in R&D is getting a red light.

Vertex says that it’s doing its best to keep working its pipeline strategy, coming up with a plan “to enable virtual clinic visits and home delivery of study drug to ensure study continuity and medical monitoring, and to facilitate study procedures.”

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Covid-19 roundup: In­ter­cept, blue­bird and a grow­ing list of biotechs feel the pain as pan­dem­ic man­gles FDA, R&D sched­ules

Around 100 staffers at Boston area hospitals have now tested positive for Covid-19, spotlighting the growing risk that the pandemic will sideline many of the most essential workers in healthcare as caseloads peak in the US and around the globe. With more than 3,400 deaths, Spain has become the latest country to surpass the official death count attributed to the new coronavirus in China, where the outbreak originated. As of Thursday morning, confirmed global cases had crossed 470,000 and the death count eclipsed 21,000.

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Af­ter crit­ics lam­bast­ed Gilead for grab­bing the FDA's spe­cial rare drug sta­tus on remde­sivir, they're giv­ing it back

Two days after Gilead won orphan drug status for remdesivir as a potential treatment for Covid-19, they’re handing it back.

The company was slammed from several sides after Gilead reported that the FDA had come through with the special status, which comes with 7 years of market exclusivity, the waiver of FDA fees and some tax credits as well. Typically, everyone who can get orphan status lands it without much of a fuss, but Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Public Citizen and other consumer groups were outraged.

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Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a short path for emer­gency use of a coro­n­avirus vac­cine

NIAID director Anthony Fauci has left no doubts that it takes 12 to 18 months to get a new vaccine tested and in commercial use, in the best of circumstances. But in times of a global emergency — like these — maybe there’s another, faster route to follow.

In an SEC filing on Tuesday, Moderna $MRNA staked out a record-setting pathway to getting their mRNA vaccine into the frontline of the healthcare response as early as this fall. The SEC filing notes that CEO Stéphane Bancel told Goldman Sachs that an emergency use approval could allow the vaccine to go to healthcare workers and certain individuals in a matter of months — presumably provided the NIH sees the safety and efficacy data they would need from the Phase I.

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Caught in a Covid-19 mael­strom, Eli Lil­ly locks down clin­i­cal tri­als as multi­bil­lion-dol­lar R&D ops de­rail

The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed Eli Lilly’s $6 billion R&D operations.

The pharma giant reported Monday morning that it has decided to hit the brakes on most new study starts and pause enrollment for most ongoing studies. Lilly adds that it is continuing dosing for ongoing studies, “but with study-by-study consideration.”

The pandemic has severely disrupted healthcare systems around the globe, says Lilly, making it difficult or impossible to conduct studies at many research sites. And there’s no timeline for when it expects to get back on track.

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As share buy­backs come un­der scruti­ny, what's in store for the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try?

Stock buybacks are not to be permitted for companies that will be bailed out in the coronavirus stimulus package, Congressional leaders have signaled. To what degree the biopharma industry has relied on buybacks for earnings growth in recent years, and if the trend continues, are the big questions as scrutiny into the practice heightens and balance sheets weaken with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on global economies.

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A Sin­ga­pore VC rais­es $200M for a new round, but will Covid-19 pre­vent it from rais­ing the rest?

A top Singaporean biotech venture fund is nearly halfway toward its largest ever fund, but in a sign of what could be in store for VCs amid a global economic freeze, said they could face headwinds raising the other half.

Vickers Venture Partners has secured $200 million out of a targeted $500 million for its 6th fund, first announced in early 2018. They’ve given themselves 13 months to complete the financing, Vickers founder Finian Tan told Deal Street Asia, but the financial frost settling amid the Covid-19 pandemic could slow efforts.

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Strug­gling Unum ex­ecs are ready to con­sid­er a sale, merg­er or any deal that comes its way

Unum $UMRX is working its way through a survival plan of sorts.

After getting hit with a trio of FDA holds in its brief public history and triggering its second pivot to a new lead drug program while laying off 60% of the staff, the troubled penny stock biotech Unum Therapeutics has hatched new plans to secure financial backing while lining up a go-forward strategy for the company.

First, Lincoln Park Capital Fund has agreed to buy up to $25 million of the long-suffering stock, as Unum directs. And the executive team — led by CEO Chuck Wilson — has put everything on the table for consideration: a sale, acquisition, merger, licensing deal, you name it. The ACTR707 program, meanwhile, is being formally wrapped up — their second failed lead program.