Aravive merges with struggling Versartis, gaining access to Nasdaq; Silence Therapeutics CEO Ali Mortazavi leaves the RNAi biotech
→ Right on the heels of its first clinical proof-of-mechanism data, Aravive Biologics announced it will continue the development of GAS6-AXL inhibitor AVB-S6-500 as a public company formed through merging with a Versartis $VSAR subsidiary. Jay Shepard, CEO of Menlo Park, CA-based Versartis, will take the helm of the new company, which will have its headquarters in Aravive’s home of Houston. The deal fills a gaping hole in Versartis’ pipeline, which has been barren since its growth hormone flopped in a Phase III last September, and pivots its focus from endocrinology to oncology. Aravive, on the other hand, is in for the “financial resources and experienced leadership.” “Versartis’ development and commercial planning expertise, as well as its operational proficiency, will complement the strong scientific and clinical capabilities of the Aravive team,” said Aravive executive chairman Ray Tabibiazar, who is one of seven board directors of the new biotech.
→ Silence Therapeutics is parting ways with CEO Ali Mortazavi after six years and putting now executive chair Annalisa Jenkins in charge while it searches for a permanent chief. Though founded in 1994, the London-based biotech is still in preclinical phases as it went through some soul-searching in 2012 — when Mortazavi joined the company — and decided to focus on RNA-based drugs. With his background in finance, Mortazavi convinced investors to back Silence’s tech platform, which promises to inhibit (or “silence”) the expression of disease-causing genes through RNA interference. Its pipeline now spans hematology, metabolic diseases and other diseases like alcohol use disorder. “We believe today that our RNAi platform and R&D capabilities offer an opportunity to advance our lead programme in iron metabolism towards the clinic and to establish research partnerships that will maximise shareholder value. We wish Ali every success in his future endeavours,” said Jenkins, who’s also CEO of liquid biopsy company PlaqueTec.
→ Enyo Pharma is pushing forward its hep B and NASH programs with cash it just closed as part of a €40 million ($46.9 million) Series B round announced Monday. The Lyon, France-based company is working on lead project EYP001, a synthetic farnesoid X receptor (FXR) agonist the company hopes can cure chronic hepatitis B. It’s also being examined as a NASH drug. The new funding, backed by Orbimed as the lead, will take Enyo into Phase II trials for both indications through 2018 and 2019, the company said in a statement.