Apellis grabs $60M to pay for a looming PhIII showdown with Alexion’s Soliris

Backing up data from small but promising studies for their rival therapy to Soliris, Louisville-based Apellis has rounded up a $60 million round to pay for a late-stage showdown with Alexion $ALXN.

Having tried and failed to pull off an IPO in chilly market waters, this E round includes some top venture players — who may be recalculating the biotech’s shot at a repeat effort on the IPO front. Sectoral Asset Management led the round with Sofinnova, Vivo Capital, F-Prime Capital Partners, certain investment funds advised by Clough Capital Partners, and venBio Select joining as new investors. Existing investors Morningside Ventures, Cormorant Asset Management, venBio Global Strategic Fund, and Epidarex Capital also participated in the financing.

It’s no coincidence that a little more than a month ago Apellis reported out positive results from two tiny studies of 3 and 6 patients suffering from paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH). In 3 patients never treated with Soliris, investigators reported that all of them experienced a quick correction on a key biomarker for lactate dehydrogenase, or LDH. In 6 patients not responding well to Soliris, the average hemoglobin level was brought up an average of 36%, LDH was corrected and transfusions dropped from 3.4/month on eculizumab monotherapy to 0.3/month when APL-2 was added to eculizumab. And the biotech raised no unusual red flags on the safety side.

Apellis says the fresh cash will fund the Phase III program for their drug while the company is also prepping the release of results from a Phase I study in autoimmune hemolytic anemia and a Phase II study in geographic atrophy, an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration.

Drawn to a market dominated by one of the world’s most expensive therapies, Apellis isn’t alone in working on a drug that could replace Alexion’s big moneymaker. Ra Pharmaceuticals and Akari have been on the trail, while Alexion has also been making advances with a second-gen product for their key moneymaker.

“Data generated to date with APL-2 across a range of clinical indications support our belief that C3 inhibition has great potential to deliver novel and commercially successful treatments,” commented Cedric Francois, founder and CEO of Apellis. “This group of top tier investors supports our vision of developing APL-2 to its full potential, and of providing a range of differentiated treatments to patients with serious unmet medical needs,” he added. “The remainder of this year will see significant milestones for Apellis.”

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