Kevin Lind (L) and Amit Munshi

Are­na's Amit Mun­shi spins out his neu­ro sub in­to a biotech start­up, with $56M for the bap­tism

Back in Jan­u­ary, Are­na Phar­ma $AR­NA CEO Amit Mun­shi turned up at JP Mor­gan with am­bi­tious plans for 2020. Near the top of the to-do list was news that he was cre­at­ing a new neu­ro sub­sidiary that would fo­cus on mi­croglial neu­roin­flam­ma­tion.

Now, he’s tak­ing the sub and spin­ning it out in­to a new biotech with $56 mil­lion in fund­ing and a syn­di­cate of its own to back up their work. And Mun­shi — who’s been suc­cess­ful run­ning the mar­ket cap up to the $5 bil­lion mark — will take his val­ue from the 33% eq­ui­ty stake that Are­na re­tains in the spin­out.

“We have a re­al­ly full plate,” Mun­shi tells me, with a slate of late-stage and mid-stage tri­als for the top pipeline drugs. “As you know, you can on­ly scale a com­pa­ny so fast.”

The sub is be­ing born to­day as Long­board Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, with for­mer CFO Kevin Lind as the new CEO. Lind and 2 oth­ers make up the cur­rent staff at the new­born biotech, and they’re plan­ning to hire up, reach­ing the 15 to 25 mark in about a year.

I asked Lind if he was plan­ning to move in­to new digs for the com­pa­ny.

“In a Covid en­vi­ron­ment,” he replied dry­ly, “it’s not re­al­ly rel­e­vant.”

What is rel­e­vant is go­ing af­ter 3 pro­grams in the most cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner pos­si­ble. They are:

— LP352, a “next-gen­er­a­tion,” clin­i­cal stage 5-HT2C ag­o­nist, in de­vel­op­ment for de­vel­op­men­tal and epilep­tic en­cephalopathies.

— Then there’s LP143, an ag­o­nist of the cannabi­noid type 2 re­cep­tor, and LP659, a “cen­tral­ly act­ing, next-gen­er­a­tion, high­ly se­lec­tive S1P re­cep­tor mod­u­la­tor.” Those two drugs are tar­get­ed at mi­croglial neu­roin­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases.

Far­al­lon Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment joined Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, High­side Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, and T. Rowe Price As­so­ci­ates, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Are­na, in the launch round.

Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL lands FDA ap­proval for he­mo­phil­ia B gene ther­a­py, sets $3.5M list price

The FDA has approved the world’s first gene therapy for hemophilia B, ushering into the market a treatment that’s historic in both what it promises to do and how much it will cost.

CSL will be marketing the drug, Hemgenix, at a list price of $3.5 million — which sets a new record for the most expensive single-use gene therapy in the US.

In a statement provided to Endpoints News, the Australian company noted that the current costs of treating people with moderate to severe hemophilia B can be significant over a lifetime. By some estimates, healthcare systems could spend more than $20 million per person.

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Elon Musk (GDA via AP Images)

Biggest drug com­pa­nies halt­ed Twit­ter ad buys af­ter Lil­ly in­sulin spoof

Almost all of the drug industry’s biggest advertisers cut their spending on Twitter to zero or near-zero over the last two weeks amid worries about impersonation of their brands by pranksters and the future of the social media company.

Among 18 of the biggest pharmaceutical advertisers in the US market, 12 cut their Twitter ad spending to nothing for the week beginning Nov. 14, according to Pathmatics, which tracks data on prescription drug ad spending as well as general corporate advertising. The list of drugmakers cutting spending to zero includes Merck, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer and others.

Andrew Phillips, Nexo Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Ver­sant, NEA launch new biotech helmed by ex-CEO of pro­tein de­grad­er C4 Ther­a­peu­tics

Long-time biotech venture firms Versant and New Enterprise Associates are backing a new startup run by former C4 Therapeutics chief executive Andrew Phillips.

The fledgling biotech has raised at least $30 million so far, according to paperwork filed with the SEC this week. The round could balloon to $60 million.

Phillips, who left protein degradation startup C4 in 2020 to be a managing director at Cormorant Asset Management, is running the show of the new venture as president, the SEC filing outlines. He also served as interim CEO of Cormorant-backed and Hansoh Pharmaceutical-partnered Blossom Bioscience last year.

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Rob Davis, Merck CEO

Up­dat­ed: No Seagen here: 'Do more' means a small $1.35B pur­chase of Ima­go for Mer­ck

Merck is making an acquisition, the Big Pharma announced before Monday’s opening bell. No, Seagen is not entering the fold, as had been speculated for quarters.

Folding under Merck’s wings will be Pfizer-backed Imago BioSciences. For nearly a year, Merck CEO Rob Davis has been saying the pharma giant needs to “do more” on the business development front after its 2021 $11.5 billion acquisition of Acceleron.

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Alzheimer’s drug bites the dust; Re­struc­ture, re­struc­ture, re­struc­ture; Land­mark di­a­betes OK; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Being in the news business can give one a warped sense of time — it feels like quite a while since we published some of these stories below. But next Saturday’s Endpoints Weekly will definitely be shorter, as we take off Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. We will still have the abbreviated edition in your inbox at the usual time.

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Image: Shutterstock

MIT re­searchers re­veal DNA "Paste" tech be­hind lat­est gene edit­ing start­up

MIT scientists have developed a tool that they say can insert large gene sequences where they want in the genome.

In a paper published Thursday in Nature Biotechnology, MIT fellows Omar Abudayyeh, Jonathan Gootenberg and colleagues detail a technology they call PASTE, which they say can potentially be used to insert long strands of DNA and treat genetic diseases caused by many different mutations, such as cystic fibrosis and Leber congenital amaurosis, a rare eye disorder that causes blindness.

J&J's Spra­va­to pulls a PhI­II win against Sero­quel XR in treat­ment-re­sis­tant de­pres­sion

A day before Thanksgiving, J&J’s Janssen has a new cut of Phase III Spravato data to be grateful for.

The pharma giant announced on Wednesday that its nasal spray, also known as esketamine, beat extended-release quetiapine, previously sold by AstraZeneca as Seroquel XR, in treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Of 676 adults, a significantly higher number of patients on Spravato were able to achieve remission and avoid relapse after 32 weeks, according to J&J.

Dermavant Sciences' first consumer TV ad for its Vtama psoriasis med shows people ready for a new topical treatment.

Roivant’s Der­ma­vant de­buts first-ever TV com­mer­cial for pso­ri­a­sis cream Vta­ma

Dermavant Sciences has been marketing its first product, psoriasis med Vtama, to dermatologists for months, but on Tuesday it rolled out its first consumer campaign. The debut DTC effort including a streaming TV commercial encourages patients to a “Topical Uprising” in a nod to Vtama being a topical cream.

In the new commercial, a swell of people discards scarves and jacket coverings, gathering in the street to converge on a pharmacy to demand a steroid-free prescription. A moment of levity follows when a pharmacist says, “You know you can just talk to your doctor, right?” The gathered crowds collectively says, “Oh.”

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