Arie Bellde­grun and David Chang score record IPO, now they plan to win the race to a his­toric FDA OK

Arie Bellde­grun and David Chang are once again in the race of a life­time — and they plan to stay in the lead to the first pi­o­neer­ing FDA OK in the field.

The two ex-Kite ex­ecs have pulled off the biggest biotech IPO of their gen­er­a­tion, up­siz­ing the of­fer­ing to 18 mil­lion shares and pric­ing at $18 a share — the top of the range.

Arie Bellde­grun

The Al­lo­gene of­fer­ing brought in $324 mil­lion, peg­ging the mar­ket val­ue of the com­pa­ny at $2.2 bil­lion, and un­der­writ­ers will soon have a chance to boost that some more. That sum edges out Ax­o­vant, which raised $315 mil­lion in 2015 to back an Alzheimer’s drug that turned out to be a com­plete bust.

“So far I have not seen a com­pa­ny that is all about al­lo­gene­ic,” Bellde­grun tells me in a phone in­ter­view, dis­cussing the off-the-shelf ap­proach to CAR-T they scooped up from Pfiz­er. “This is a huge op­por­tu­ni­ty.”

“We want to be in the lead,” he adds.

To do that, Al­lo­gene can now re­ly on a war chest filled with the bulk of the mon­ey raised in a mon­ster, $744 mil­lion fundrais­ing blitz through the year.

The next big tran­si­tion point comes in the first half next year, when they go in­to the clin­ic with their lead ther­a­py. If they stay on sched­ule — fol­low­ing an al­ways haz­ardous course of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment — Chang says they could grab piv­otal da­ta by the end of 2021. In the mean­time, they’ll al­so ush­er in an­oth­er clin­i­cal pro­gram in 2019, with an­oth­er ther­a­py that could pur­sue mul­ti­ple in­di­ca­tions in on­col­o­gy.

The pair have been there be­fore, rac­ing No­var­tis on per­son­al­ized CAR-T ther­a­pies. The phar­ma gi­ant just bare­ly edged them out. But that was a tech­nol­o­gy that was 15 years in the mak­ing, says Bellde­grun. Now they have a host of new tools, like gene edit­ing, at their dis­pos­al. And by carv­ing out a Pfiz­er group with 40 core staffers and a 4-year track record in pre­clin­i­cal work, they plan to make rel­a­tive­ly quick work of this new race.

We’ll see lat­er to­day how in­vestors like the lat­est biotech uni­corn to hit the Nas­daq, where Bellde­grun and Chang made their mark with Kite Phar­ma — which sold to Gilead for $12 bil­lion, mak­ing in­vestors a bit gid­dy.

David Chang

Over the last 6 months they’ve raised $744 mil­lion for the com­pa­ny in the wake of in-li­cens­ing Pfiz­er’s off-the-shelf CAR-T port­fo­lio, a fig­ure that would have been con­sid­ered some­thing of a pipe dream be­fore 2018 came around.

Now that the mon­ey blitz is done, open­ing up a 3-year run­way to an ap­point­ment with the FDA, the com­pa­ny will con­tin­ue a quest to de­vel­op the world’s first off-the-shelf CAR-T, a sci­en­tif­ic chal­lenge that could swipe aside the pi­o­neer­ing per­son­al­ized drugs that are now on the mar­ket at No­var­tis and Gilead.

They’ve al­ready dou­bled the size of the orig­i­nal team, and more hires are to come. Al­lo­gene al­so has some am­bi­tious plans to es­tab­lish a lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­fort, which will be key to their ul­ti­mate suc­cess in the field.

Gold­man Sachs & Co, J.P. Mor­gan Se­cu­ri­ties, Cowen and Com­pa­ny, and Jef­feries are act­ing as the joint book-run­ning man­agers for the of­fer­ing. 

This year we’ve seen a rapid surge in new biotech IPOs, which was large­ly un­ex­pect­ed af­ter a cou­ple years of steady run­ning. And once again Bellde­grun and Chang have their tim­ing down per­fect­ly. In­evitably, a deal like this will raise ques­tions about just how hot things are on the Nas­daq right now, and whether we’re in a bub­ble.

But it’s not over yet.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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UP­DAT­ED: Stay tuned: Bio­gen’s num­bers are great — it’s their wor­ri­some fu­ture that leaves an­a­lysts skit­tish

Biogen came out with an upbeat assessment of their Q2 numbers today, discounting the arrival of a key rival for its blockbuster Spinraza franchise. But the top execs remain grimly determined to not say much anything new about the sore points that have dragged down its stock, including the future of its big investment in Alzheimer’s or how it plans to invest the considerable cash that the big biotech continues to reap.

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Why wait? Cel­gene re­struc­tures a big Jounce pact — ze­ro­ing in on new I/O path­way with $530M deal and bump­ing ICOS

Celgene’s business team isn’t waiting for the big merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb to go through before syncing its strategy with the new mother ship.

Tuesday evening the big biotech unveiled a $530 million deal — $50 million in upfront cash — to amend their alliance with Jounce Therapeutics $JNCE to gain worldwide rights to JTX-8064, an antibody that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages. Their old, $2.6 billion deal is being scrapped, leaving Jounce with a pipeline that includes the lead drug, the ICOS-targeting vopratelimab.

PACT Phar­ma says it's per­fect­ed the tech to se­lect neoanti­gens for per­son­al­ized ther­a­py — now on­to the clin­ic

At PACT Pharma, the lofty goal to unleash a “tsunami” of T cells personalized for each patient has hinged on the ability to correctly identify the neoantigens that form something of a fingerprint for each tumor, and extract the small group of T cells primed to attack the cancer. It still has a long way to go testing a treatment in humans, but the biotech says it has nailed that highly technical piece of the process.

UP­DAT­ED: My­ovan­t's uter­ine fi­broid drug looks com­pet­i­tive in PhI­II — but can they van­quish mighty Ab­b­Vie?

Vivek Ramaswamy’s Myovant $MYOV has closely matched its positive first round of Phase III data for their uterine fibroid drug relugolix, setting up a head-to-head rivalry with pharma giant AbbVie as the little biotech steers to the market with a planned filing in Q4.

Here’s how Myovant plans to prevail over the AbbVie $ABBV empire.

In the study, 71.2% of women receiving once-daily relugolix combination therapy achieved the clinical response they were looking for, compared to only 14.7% in the control arm. The data comfortably reflected the same outcomes in the first Phase III — 73.4% of women receiving once-daily oral relugolix combination therapy achieved the responder criteria compared with 18.9% of women receiving placebo — which will reassure regulators that they are getting the carefully randomized data that qualifies for the FDA’s gold standard for success.

Lit­tle Mar­i­nus sees its shares eclipsed as the Sage ri­val fails to com­pare on PPD in PhII

The executive team at Sage $SAGE have skirted another potential pitfall on its way to racking up a big future for its depression drug Zulresso.

Little Marinus Pharmaceuticals $MRNS had sought to challenge the Sage drug with an IV formulation — followed by an oral version — of ganaxolone for postpartum depression. But researchers say their Phase II study failed to positively differentiate itself from a placebo at 28 days — leaving them to hold up “clinically meaningful” data within the first day of administration compared to the control arm.

Roche cuts loose Tam­i­flu OTC rights, hand­ing Sanofi the keys as the phar­ma gi­ant dou­bles down on Xofluza

Roche set out to make a better flu medicine than Tamiflu as that franchise was headed to a generic showdown. Now they’ll see just how well Xofluza stacks up against the mainstay drug after handing off over-the-counter rights in the US to Sanofi.

Sanofi $SNY says it will now step in to negotiate a deal with the FDA to steer Tamiflu into the OTC market, a role that could well involve new studies to ease passage of the drug out of doctor’s hands and into the consumer end of the market. And the French pharma giant will have first dibs over “selected” OTC markets around the world as they push ahead.

Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.