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.

Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

How Pur­due's $272M ad­dic­tion pay­out fund­ed a new home for its dis­card­ed non-opi­oid re­search

Don Kyle spent more than 20 years working for Purdue Pharma, right through the US opioid epidemic that led to the company’s rise and eventual infamy. But contrary to Purdue’s focus on OxyContin, Kyle was researching non-opioid painkillers — that is, until the company shelved his research.

As the company’s legal troubles mounted, Kyle found an unlikely way to reboot the project. In 2019, he took his work to an Oklahoma State University center that’s slated to receive more than two-thirds of the state’s $272 million settlement with Purdue over claims that the drugmaker’s behavior ignited the epidemic of opioid use and abuse.

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President Joe Biden at the State of the Union address with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

The drug pric­ing pres­i­dent: Biden warns of ve­to for any IRA re­peal at­tempts

President Joe Biden made clear in his “finish the job” State of the Union address last night that one of those jobs to be finished is insulin prices.

Biden’s push again to tackle insulin prices, after Republicans rebuffed the idea last summer and just after Biden won Medicare drug price negotiations/caps via the Inflation Reduction Act, shows how heavily he’s leaning into this work.

Rupert Vessey, Bristol Myers Squibb head of research and early development

Up­dat­ed: R&D tur­bu­lence at Bris­tol My­ers now in­cludes the end of a $650M al­liance and the de­par­ture of a top re­search cham­pi­on

This morning biotech Dragonfly put out word that Bristol Myers Squibb has handed back all rights to its IL-12 clinical-stage drug after spending $650 million to advance it into the clinic.

The news arrives amid a turbulent R&D stage for the pharma giant, which late last week highlighted Rupert Vessey’s decision to depart this summer as head of early-stage R&D following a crucial three-year stretch after he jumped to Bristol Myers in the big Celgene buyout. During that time he struck a series of deals for Bristol Myers, and also shepherded a number of Celgene programs down the pipeline, playing a major role for a lineup of biotechs which depended on him to champion their drugs.

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Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

Drag­on­fly chief: Bris­tol My­ers shouldn’t blame IL-12’s clin­i­cal per­for­mance for de­ci­sion to scrap the deal — eco­nom­ics played a key role

Bristol Myers Squibb says the IL-12 drug they were developing out of Dragonfly Therapeutics was scrubbed from the pipeline for a simple reason: It didn’t measure up on clinical performance.

But Bill Haney, the CEO of Dragonfly, is taking issue with that.

The early-stage drug, still in Phase I development, has passed muster with Bristol Myers’ general clinical expectations, advancing successfully while still in Phase I, he says.

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Utpal Koppikar, new Verily CFO

Ex­clu­sive: Ver­i­ly wel­comes Atara Bio­ther­a­peu­tics vet­er­an as new CFO

Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences outfit, has plucked a new CFO from the ranks of Atara Biotherapeutics, the company announced on Wednesday.

Utpal Koppikar joins Verily after a nearly five-year stint as CFO and senior VP at Atara, though his résumé also boasts roles at Gilead and Amgen.

The news follows a major reshuffling at Verily, including several senior departures earlier this year and a round of layoffs.

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Singer Nick Jonas is back at work for Dexcom, this time for its new G7 glucose monitor.

Dex­com's spokescelebri­ty Nick Jonas re­turns to Su­per Bowl in new glu­cose mon­i­tor com­mer­cial

Dexcom is going back to the Super Bowl with its pop singer and patient spokesperson Nick Jonas. Jonas takes center stage as the lone figure in the 30-second commercial showcasing Dexcom’s next-generation G7 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device.

Jonas’ sleight-of-hand tricks populate the commercial — he pinches his empty fingers together and pops them open to reveal the small CGM — even as he ends the ad, saying, “It’s not magic. It just feels that way.” Jonas then disappears in a puff of smoke.

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Richard Francis, newly-appointed Teva CEO (Novartis via Facebook)

New Te­va CEO Richard Fran­cis repri­or­i­tizes to 'get back to growth'

Six weeks into his new role at the helm of Teva Pharmaceutical, Richard Francis said it’s time to “get back to growth,” starting with a good look at the company’s priorities.

The chief executive has kicked off a strategic review, he announced during Teva’s quarterly call, which will continue over the next several months and produce results sometime in the middle of 2023. That means some pipeline cuts may be in store, he told Endpoints News, while declining to offer much more detail.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Capitol Hill, Feb. 8, 2023 (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

FDA com­mis­sion­er floats ideas on how to bet­ter han­dle the pan­dem­ic

FDA Commissioner Rob Califf joined the heads of the CDC and NIH in the hot seat today before a key House subcommittee, explaining that there needs to be a much faster, more coordinated way to oversee vaccine safety, and that foreign biopharma inspections, halted for years due to the pandemic, are slowly ramping up again.

Califf, who stressed to the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health that the CDC also needs better data, made clear that the FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of vaccines “would also benefit greatly by a coordinated federal public health data reporting authority.”

Sanofi is renewing its #VaccinesForDreams campaign with more stories, such as Juan's in Argentina (Sanofi)

Sanofi re­news so­cial cam­paign to re­mind that vac­cines let peo­ple ‘Dream Big’

Sanofi is highlighting people’s dreams — both big and small — to make the point that vaccines make them possible.

The renewed “Dream Big” global social media campaign’s newest dreamer is Juan, a teacher in the Misiones rainforest in Argentina whose story is told through videos on Instagram and Sanofi’s website with the hashtag #VaccinesForDreams.

The campaign ties to Sanofi’s broader umbrella initiative “Vaccine Stories” to promote the value of vaccines and drive awareness of the need for improved vaccination coverage.

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