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.

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a COVID-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

#ES­MO20: Push­ing in­to front­line, Mer­ck and Bris­tol My­ers duke it out with new slate of GI can­cer da­ta

Having worked in parallel for years to move their respective PD-1 inhibitors up to the first-line treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb finally have the data at ESMO for a showdown.

Comparing KEYNOTE-590 and CheckMate-649, of course, comes with the usual caveats. But a side-by-side look at the overall survival numbers also offer some perspective on a new frontier for the reigning checkpoint rivals, both of whom are claiming to have achieved a first.

Is­raeli biotech rais­es $57M to go where cur­rent BRAF in­hibitors can't, with back­ing from No­var­tis, SR One

For the blockbuster potential of Novartis’ Tafinlar and Pfizer’s Braftovi, all the BRAF inhibitors on the market so far only target V600 mutations — which accounts for roughly 50% of patients.

Israeli biotech Novellus now has $57 million to develop a drug that they say can help the other 50% who have everything else.

The Series C will fund a Phase II trial for PLX-8394, a “paradox breaker” that could block RAF without activating MAPK signaling. In a Phase I trial, a patient with a BRAF fusion saw their tumor go away after taking the drug, allowing Novellus to hit the ground running.

Jonathan Rigby, Immune Regulation group CEO

Im­mune Reg­u­la­tion, tak­ing two clin­i­cal pro­grams to 're­set' the im­mune sys­tem, nets $53M+ Se­ries B

A little under two years after a company rebranding, Immune Regulation is taking an even bigger step toward advancing its goals.

Formerly known as Peptinnovate, the British biotech announced a $53.4 million Series B early Monday morning, helping to further advance two clinical programs in rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Though those are the two initial indications the company is focusing on, CEO Jonathan Rigby told Endpoints News he hopes the candidates can be applied to a broad swath of autoimmune disorders.

UP­DAT­ED: Two wild weeks for Grail end in $8B Il­lu­mi­na buy­out

Grail’s whirlwind two weeks have ended in the wealthy arms of its former founder and benefactors.

Illumina has shelled out $8 billion to reacquire the closely-watched liquid biopsy startup they spun out just 5 years ago and sold off much of its shares just 3 years ago. The deal comes nearly two weeks after the well-heeled startup filed for a potentially massive IPO — one that was disrupted just a week later when Bloomberg reported that Illumina was in talks to buy their former spinout for up to $8 billion.

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Roche vaults to the front of the NL­RP3 clin­i­cal race, pay­ing $448M up­front to bag In­fla­zome

Roche is going all in on NLRP3.

The pharma giant is putting down $448 million (€380 million) upfront to snatch Novartis-backed Inflazome, which makes it a clinical player in the space overnight.

Dublin and Cambridge, UK-based Inflazome is the second NLRP3-focused biotech Roche has acquired in less than two years, and although no numbers were disclosed in the Jecure buyout, this is almost certainly a much larger deal.

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Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

A press of­fi­cer at An­tho­ny Fau­ci’s NI­AID was un­masked as a hard-right Covid troll. He just re­tired to­day

William B Crews had been a public affairs specialist at the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That ended today when he informed the agency of his decision to retire, after he was identified as the managing editor at RedState, a prominent Trump loyalist website.

Crews’ RedState duties are performed under the alias streiff. While enjoying the benefits of pseudonymity, he disparaged and worked against NIAID with an incendiary level of rhetoric in the midst of a pandemic.

#ES­MO20: Bris­tol My­ers marks Op­di­vo's sec­ond ad­ju­vant win — eye­ing a stan­dard of care gap

Moving into earlier and earlier treatment lines, Bristol Myers Squibb is reporting that adjuvant treatment with Opdivo has doubled the time that esophageal or gastroesophageal junction cancer patients stay free of disease.

With the CheckMate-577 data at ESMO, CMO Samit Hirawat said, the company believes it can change the treatment paradigm.

While a quarter to 30% of patients typically achieve a complete response following chemoradiation therapy and surgery, the rest do not, said Ronan Kelly of Baylor University Medical Center. The recurrence rate is also high within the first year, Hirawat added.