ARCH-backed SciNeuro kicks off search for CNS autoantibodies with new deal; Merck + Gilead announce PhII trial for HIV combo
From the very beginning at SciNeuro, CEO Min Li has envisioned a mix of licensing deals and scientific efforts to replicate the breakout success of China’s oncology companies in neuroscience.
The GlaxoSmithKline vet has now inked a deal that somewhat straddles the line between the two strategies.
Teaming up with Mabylon out of Zurich, SciNeuro is now looking to test the hypothesis that the human immune system can play a role in fighting neurodegenerative diseases by discovering and developing human autoantibodies against neurological “targets of mutual interests.” The new partners offered TAR DNA binding protein-43 (TDP-43) and apolipoprotein E (APOE), which are linked to ALS and Alzheimer’s, as examples.
For every 10,000 patients screened, there are usually one to 10 specific hits on antibody reactivity against proteins present in the human body, according to Mabylon. By screening large cohorts of blood samples — on the magnitude of more than 100,000 individuals per year — it boasts of a powerful technology for the detection of autoantibodies.
Shanghai-based SciNeuro, which gets a big say in how studies will be run up to proof of concept, will have rights to develop and commercialize resulting products in China, with an option to grab global rights down the road.
Backed by top-tier life sciences investors including ARCH, Lilly Asia Ventures and Boyu, SciNeuro has carefully curated a slate of in-house R&D projects as well as some compounds licensed from Eli Lilly.
“Native human antibody-based approaches have proven successful for the treatment of infectious diseases including COVID-19,” Li said in a statement. “Discovery of auto-antibodies to treat other diseases has been more challenging, due in part to the availability of sufficiently large and high-quality sample collections.” — Amber Tong
Merck, Gilead kick off PhII trial for HIV combo
Just yesterday, Merck’s announced its experimental anti-HIV drug islatravir got a Phase III combo win.
Developing the molecule with other Merck drugs is just one part of the company’s strategy, though. It is also part an ongoing partnership between Merck and Gilead to challenge GSK on long-acting HIV meds by combining islatravir with a drug from Gilead (lenacapavir) that had shown potential.
Now, that partnership got a new update — in the form of a new Phase II clinical trial. The two biotechs said in a statement this morning that the trial will use their drugs in a combination treatment to be taken once weekly by participants.
“The initiation of this study is key to further understanding the potential of islatravir and lenacapavir in combination for the treatment of HIV-1,” said Merck’s vice president of global clinical development for infectious diseases Joan Butterton. — Paul Schloesser
Myovant pursues other partnerships after Pfizer opts out of international relugolix rights
Pfizer has chosen to decline its option to exercise its right to commercialize relugolix outside of the US and Canada, Myovant revealed in its 2021 Q2 corporate update call Tuesday.
In December 2020, the Swiss biotech that was formerly a part of the Vivek Ramaswamy family of Vants won FDA approval for the drug for the treatment of advance prostate cancer. It’s the first oral hormone therapy approved for indication.
Pfizer and Myovant landed a key approval to open up the women’s health side of the relugolix franchise in late May when the FDA cleared a three-in-one pill dubbed Myfembree to treat heavy menstrual bleeding associated with uterine fibroids.
The company’s total Q2 revenue of $77.9 million included $18.7 million from the sales of relugolix, also known as Orgovyx. That drug accounted for 78% of the company’s sequential growth. — Josh Sullivan
Genentech and Bicycle unveil new expansion in immuno-oncology discovery and commercialization deal
Genentech will initiate a new program with Bicycle Therapeutics under an exclusive, strategic collaboration agreement, Bicycle announced today.
The new program expands Genentech’s standing agreement with the British oncology biotech to commercialize immune-oncology therapies discovered and developed on Bicycle’s namesake platform.
Bicycle and Genentech are collaborating on the discovery and pre-clinical development of different immunotherapies against multiple targets, as part of a deal the companies made back in February 2020.
As part of the agreement, Genentech exercised an option to include a new program under the agreement, thus paying Bicycle $10 million.
This deal takes place just a few months after Ionis enlisted Bicycle’s platform for $45 million upfront for drugs that can pass through the blood brain barrier.
“We are pleased both with the progress achieved so far in our ongoing work with Genentech and that Genentech has elected to exercise an option to add a new program under the collaboration,” said Bicycle CEO Kevin Lee in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with the preeminent immuno-oncology team at Genentech to develop potential new cancer treatments.” — Paul Schloesser
Selecta inks $85M+ deal for Ginkgo’s enzyme discovery platform
Earlier this month, Selecta was on the receiving end of a $1 billion-plus deal for its solution to gene therapy’s delivery problem. Now, the company is dishing out some serious cash to pair that platform with Ginkgo’s high-throughput enzyme discovery technology.
Selecta and Ginkgo unveiled an R&D pact on Tuesday that adds up to $85 million in clinical milestones, in addition to an undisclosed amount upfront, payments in the form of Selecta’s stock, and sales royalties. In return, Ginkgo will design enzymes to pair with Selecta’s ImmTOR platform, which is designed to be given in conjunction with gene therapies to induce antigen-specific immune tolerance.
“We are excited to partner with Ginkgo and expect that our ImmTOR technology, in combination with Ginkgo’s high throughput enzyme discovery, design, and screening capabilities will bring us one step closer to improving the sustained efficacy of novel biologic therapeutics,” Selecta CEO Carsten Brunn said in a statement.
At the beginning of the month, Takeda shelled out an undisclosed amount upfront and more than $1.1 billion in biobucks to license Selecta’s ImmTOR platform for its two undisclosed gene therapies for lysosomal storage disorders. While it isn’t clear which targets Selecta and Ginkgo are pursuing, the companies said they’re looking at orphan and rare diseases. — Nicole DeFeudis