Armed with CRISPR and a $38M round, eGe­n­e­sis tack­les the Holy Grail of xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion

Luhan Yang, eGe­n­e­sis

The first crude re­search in­volv­ing xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion goes back to the 1960s, when in­ves­ti­ga­tors first ac­tive­ly con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­i­ties of har­vest­ing or­gans from pri­mates for use in hu­mans. That failed, and sub­se­quent at­tempts run­ning through the mid-90s al­so flopped, with in­com­pat­i­bil­i­ty prov­ing im­pos­si­ble to over­come, while al­so rais­ing some big fears about trans­fer­ring pig virus­es to hu­mans with po­ten­tial­ly cat­a­stroph­ic re­sults.

But George Church and his cel­e­brat­ed team at Har­vard have been us­ing a hot new lab tool to give xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion an­oth­er shot at the re­al world. And now the team has raised $38 mil­lion from some for­ward-think­ing in­vestors to see if yes­ter­day’s sci­ence fic­tion can be­come to­mor­row’s land­mark re­al­i­ty.

Xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion “has been aban­doned for the past 15 years,” says Luhan Yang, an award-win­ning young sci­en­tist who’s the CSO and co-founder at eGe­n­e­sis. But Yang and her 10-mem­ber crew are us­ing CRISPR gene edit­ing tech­nol­o­gy to knock out prob­lem anti­gens to ad­dress the re­jec­tion is­sue while prov­ing in a pre­clin­i­cal set­ting that you can erad­i­cate the prob­lem virus from the pig genome, hope­ful­ly clos­ing the door on any pos­si­ble plague that could be trig­gered.

George Church

Yang says she’s al­ready pub­lished her work show­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties there, but she’s al­so quick to ac­knowl­edge just how ear­ly-stage the pre­clin­i­cal an­i­mal re­search is, and the long road ahead be­fore this can be test­ed in hu­mans.

“We have to see whether the or­gan is safe, com­pat­i­ble with the hu­man host, be­fore we move in­to the pa­tient,” says the CSO. “2017 is a very im­por­tant year for us” as eGe­n­e­sis con­tin­ues its work on Pigs 2.0 to ad­dress both is­sues.

It took some vi­sion­ary VCs will­ing to fund some rad­i­cal ideas to make this pos­si­ble, says Yang. Bio­mat­ics Cap­i­tal and Arch Ven­ture Part­ners co-led the round with par­tic­i­pa­tion from Khosla Ven­tures, Al­ta Part­ners, Alexan­dria Eq­ui­ties, Her­itage Provider Net­work, Berggru­en Hold­ings North Amer­i­ca Ltd., Up­ris­ing, and Fan Ven­tures. In ad­di­tion, Daniel S. Lynch — the for­mer CEO of Im­Clone — has joined eGe­n­e­sis as ex­ec­u­tive chair­man. They’ve be­gun the process of look­ing for a CEO while the team is set to grow to about 15 to 20 now that the new fi­nanc­ing has ar­rived.

I wrote about Bio­mat­ics and its two man­ag­ing part­ners yes­ter­day. They’ve put to­geth­er a $200 mil­lion fund look­ing for some break­through sci­ence to sup­port. And it doesn’t get much more am­bi­tious than this. Arch, mean­while, has prid­ed it­self in bankrolling break­through ideas in biotech. This was tai­lor made for them.

Xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion may sound a lit­tle far-fetched to some, con­cedes Yang. But if they can get this to work, the con­se­quences of farm­ing tis­sue and or­gans like hearts and kid­neys are enor­mous. In her na­tive Chi­na, she says, the cul­ture and re­li­gion make or­gan do­na­tions rare. Xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion would save a large num­ber of lives.

For now, though, the team is keep­ing its time­lines to it­self. How much time will it take to try this in hu­mans? It’s still to ear­ly to say, says Yang, who al­so didn’t want to spec­u­late. But they’ve just tak­en some big steps for­ward with the fi­nanc­ing.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

UP­DAT­ED: With loom­ing ‘apoc­a­lypse of drug re­sis­tance,’ Mer­ck’s com­bi­na­tion an­tibi­ot­ic scores FDA ap­proval on two fronts

Merck — one of the last large biopharmaceuticals companies in the beleaguered field of antibiotic drug development — on Wednesday said the FDA had sanctioned the approval of its combination antibacterial for the treatment of complicated urinary tract and intra-abdominal infections.

To curb the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and maintain the efficacy of the therapy, Recarbrio (and other antibacterials) — the drug must be used to treat or prevent infections that are proven or strongly suspected to be caused by susceptible gram-negative bacteria, Merck $MRK said.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,000+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.