Matthew Roden, Aktis Oncology CEO (MPM Capital)

Are ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals ready for the main­stream? No­var­tis, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb bet yes on MP­M's plat­form take

Bri­an Good­man, Patrick Baeuer­le and Todd Fo­ley weren’t ex­act­ly look­ing to start a ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals com­pa­ny.

Rather, the team at MPM Cap­i­tal — which had been known for its will­ing­ness to seed and in­cu­bate new ideas for bat­tling can­cer — was search­ing for tech­nolo­gies that could con­fer “CAR-T like ef­fi­ca­cy” in sol­id tu­mors. They went through an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, cell ther­a­pies and T cell en­gagers but very quick­ly got hooked on some­thing else: al­pha emit­ting par­ti­cles.

It was 2019, and in­ter­est in the space was bub­bling as No­var­tis claimed a lead with the ac­qui­si­tion of both Ad­vanced Ac­cel­er­a­tor Ap­pli­ca­tions and En­do­cyte while small­er play­ers like Fu­sion Phar­ma and Clo­vis were an­gling for en­try. Specif­i­cal­ly, the MPM VCs had their eyes on al­pha emit­ting par­ti­cles: a pay­load that’s 1,000 times as po­tent as the be­ta emit­ters used in cur­rent­ly ap­proved ra­dio­ther­a­pies.

The time seemed ripe for ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to be­come more main­stream, they de­cid­ed, with mon­ey be­ing poured in­to all steps of the val­ue chain, in­clud­ing sup­pli­ers of ra­dioiso­topes and con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers. But there is a need for a new kind of phar­ma­col­o­gy — find­ing the right mol­e­cules that would take the ra­dioiso­topes where they need to be and keep them there. And that’s pre­cise­ly their goal with Ak­tis On­col­o­gy, which was for­mal­ized in 2020 and is now tak­ing the wraps off a $72 mil­lion launch round.

“We’re not alone,” said Matthew Ro­den, CEO of Ak­tis and ex­ec­u­tive part­ner at MPM. “There’s an ecosys­tem be­ing built at the mo­ment that’s go­ing to en­able the suc­cess of this field go­ing for­ward.”

Like Rayze­Bio — the Ver­sant- and ven­Bio-backed start­up that’s sim­i­lar­ly promis­ing a new breed of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — Ak­tis (the Greek root for ac­tini­um, the el­e­ment they’d be turn­ing to for the al­pha-emit­ting par­ti­cles) is keen about be­com­ing a plat­form play. Ro­den, an alum­nus of Bris­tol My­ers Squibb’s strat­e­gy unit who took up the post at the biotech soon af­ter join­ing MPM last sum­mer, is care­ful not to spill too many beans. But he is more ready to di­vulge what drew him to the project among oth­er port­fo­lio com­pa­nies he could’ve cho­sen from.

“There’s re­al­ly no good re­sis­tance mech­a­nism to al­pha emis­sions,” he told End­points News. “Al­pha par­ti­cles are ba­si­cal­ly a he­li­um atom that is dis­charged that cre­ates dou­ble strand breaks in DNA.”

Com­bined with the po­ten­cy, that means ra­dio­ther­a­pies can work with few­er con­straints and po­ten­tial­ly ad­dress tar­gets that es­cape oth­er modal­i­ties: You don’t need a thresh­old of anti­gen ex­pres­sion, or in­ter­nal­iza­tion, or im­mune cell ac­tiv­i­ty.

Plus, since you can the­o­ret­i­cal­ly swap out imag­ing iso­topes with ther­a­peu­tic iso­topes with ease, Ak­tis en­vi­sions a straight­for­ward path to the clin­ic once they can show — with the help of those imag­ing agents — dense ac­cu­mu­la­tion of the drug around the tu­mor but nowhere else.

Hav­ing looked at “count­less class­es of mol­e­cules,” Ro­den not­ed that Ak­tis’ in­ter­nal crew of 10 has worked with col­lab­o­ra­tors, ad­vi­sors and con­sul­tants (we’re go­ing to have to wait to find out who they are) to build a cou­ple of screen­ing plat­forms in par­al­lel to iden­ti­fy com­pounds to hit their se­lect­ed tar­gets. The com­pa­ny is head­quar­tered in Cam­bridge, MA with labs in Re­search Tri­an­gle Park, NC.

No­var­tis and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb are both back­ing the hunt, join­ing EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Vi­da Ven­tures, Oc­ta­gon Cap­i­tal and TCG Crossover on the Se­ries A syn­di­cate.

Paul Feld­man, a Glax­o­SmithK­line vet who pre­vi­ous­ly co-found­ed a pep­tide-fo­cused com­pa­ny, is com­ing on board as CSO while Good­man from MPM is dou­bling as head of op­er­a­tions and cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Joshua Cohen (L) and Justin Klee, Amylyx co-CEOs

BREAK­ING: Af­ter long and wind­ing road, FDA ap­proves Amy­lyx's ALS drug in vic­to­ry for pa­tients and ad­vo­ca­cy groups

For just the third time in its 116-year history, the FDA has approved a new treatment for Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.

US regulators gave the thumbs-up to the drug, known as Relyvrio, in a massive win for patients and their families. The approval, given to Boston-area biotech Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, comes after two years of long and contentious debates over the drug’s effectiveness between advocacy groups and FDA scientists, following the readout of a mid-stage clinical trial in September 2020.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Some­one old, some­one new: Mod­er­na pro­motes CTO, raids No­var­tis for re­place­ment amid pipeline push

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel made clear on the last quarterly call that “now is not the time to slow down.” On Thursday, he made a bit more room in the cockpit.

The company unveiled a new executive role on Thursday, promoting former chief technical operations and quality officer Juan Andres to president of strategic partnerships and enterprise expansion, and poaching a former Novartis exec to take his place.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Marcelo Bigal, Ventus Therapeutics CEO

No­vo Nordisk joins No­var­tis, Roche in NL­RP3 are­na, bet­ting $70M cash on NASH, car­diometa­bol­ic us­es

As a drug target, the NLRP3 inflammasome has drawn serious interest from Big Pharma, inspiring a series of M&A deals from Novartis and Roche on top of venture investments by others. Now Novo Nordisk is jumping on the bandwagon — and the Danish pharma giant is taking the target where it knows best.

Novo Nordisk is getting its NLRP3 inhibitors from Ventus Therapeutics, a Versant-backed startup that set out to make some of the best NLRP3 drugs out there by incorporating new insights into the structure of the target complex.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 151,300+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.