An­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­er scores $50M from biotech bil­lion­aire; Bio­haven's Alzheimer's drug pass­es fu­til­i­ty test

→ An­tibi­ot­ic de­vel­op­er Sum­mit Ther­a­peu­tics has scored a cool $50 mil­lion in fund­ing from biotech bil­lion­aire Robert Dug­gan — the for­mer chief of Phar­ma­cyclics, the com­pa­ny be­hind Im­bru­vi­ca that was sold to Ab­b­Vie for $21 bil­lion in 2015 — as it steers its lead drug through late-stage de­vel­op­ment. Dug­gan al­ready owned 49% of Sum­mit hav­ing in­vest­ed $25 mil­lion pre­vi­ous­ly, but this lat­est in­jec­tion will give him a con­trol­ling 72.8% stake. In con­nec­tion with the cap­i­tal raise, the Ox­ford, UK-based com­pa­ny is al­so delist­ing its shares from the Lon­don stock ex­change but will re­tain its Nas­daq list­ing $SMMT.

→ While bulls and bears en­gage in heat­ed dis­cus­sions about the ap­prov­abil­i­ty po­ten­tial of Bio­gen‘s re­cent­ly res­ur­rect­ed Alzheimer’s drug, Bio­haven‘s ex­per­i­men­tal drug, tro­r­ilu­zole, has passed a fu­til­i­ty analy­sis in an on­go­ing Phase II/III tri­al in Alzheimer’s dis­ease. The drug is an oral, once-dai­ly tablet that is de­signed to mod­u­late glu­ta­mate, a neu­ro­trans­mit­ter re­spon­si­ble for send­ing sig­nals be­tween nerve cells.

Am­gen-part­nered Sin­ga­pore­an biotech Hum­ming­bird Bio­science has bagged $19 mil­lion to bankroll more dis­cov­ery projects — both dis­ease tar­gets and po­ten­tial an­ti­body ther­a­peu­tics — on its plat­form. Its two lead can­cer drugs, which tar­get HER3 and VISTA re­spec­tive­ly, are set to en­ter the clin­ic in the sec­ond half of 2020. South Ko­rea-based Mi­rae As­set Ven­ture In­vest­ment and GN­Tech Ven­ture Cap­i­tal led the Se­ries B, bring­ing their to­tal fund­ing count to $60 mil­lion. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors Her­i­tas Cap­i­tal and Seeds Cap­i­tal al­so joined, as did new in­vestors Delian Cap­i­tal, Mi­rae As­set Cap­i­tal, DAVal­ue-Gilt­Edge, HB In­vest­ment, Wooshin Ven­ture In­vest­ment, and Ki­woom In­vest­ment-Shin­han Cap­i­tal.

As­traZeneca and Cam­bridge Judge Busi­ness School has bro­kered a new al­liance with Chi­na Med­ical Sys­tem, a Hong Kong-list­ed spe­cial­ty phar­ma, to in­vest in ear­ly-stage work in the UK biotech and life sci­ences. Chi­na Med­ical Sys­tem has com­mit­ted to hand­ing out £25 mil­lion to var­i­ous star­tups in their British part­ners’ net­works over the next five years, with the goal of po­ten­tial­ly bring­ing re­sult­ing prod­ucts to Chi­na.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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No­var­tis chips in $10M for IPO-bound part­ner Pli­ant; Tenax shares soar on heart drug da­ta

Novartis is coming in with $10 million to help support the looming IPO of a partner. Pliant Therapeutics posted a new filing with the SEC showing that Novartis is buying the shares at $15, the mid-point of the range. It’s adding several million shares to the offering, bringing the total to around $135 million. Biotech companies have been enjoying quite a run on virtual Wall Street, with investors boosting new offerings to some big hauls.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”