Armed with Pfiz­er's ADC plat­form, Pyx­is scores $152M round to shoot for the clin­ic while tak­ing its time on I/O pro­grams

Lara Sul­li­van knows how em­pow­er­ing it can be for a biotech to bring in ex­per­i­men­tal drugs from Pfiz­er’s shelves. An alum of the phar­ma gi­ant’s ear­ly stage R&D port­fo­lio op­er­a­tions and strat­e­gy team, she helped spin out four or­phan dis­ease meds in­to Spring­Works Ther­a­peu­tics, which earned some sig­nif­i­cant back­ing from Bain be­fore vault­ing to a $186 mil­lion IPO with­in two years.

So when some of her old col­leagues got in touch about an an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate pro­gram that they were shut­ter­ing — just as she was set­tling in­to her new role as CEO of Pyx­is On­col­o­gy — Sul­li­van jumped at the op­por­tu­ni­ty.

It proved pru­dent. Less than two years af­ter launch­ing with a mod­est $22 mil­lion Se­ries A, Pyx­is has now col­lect­ed $152 mil­lion in new fund­ing to push a trio of AD­Cs in­to the clin­ic while ad­vanc­ing an in-house im­muno-on­col­o­gy pipeline.

Ronald Herb­st

Pfiz­er Ven­tures chimed in along­side Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, BVF Part­ners, Janus, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Tekla Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment LLC, Acu­ta Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Ridge­back Cap­i­tal In­vest­ments, Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal (a Citadel com­pa­ny), Lau­ri­on Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal and LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners.

Ar­ix Bio­science and RTW In­vest­ments co-led the Se­ries B.

Soon af­ter Sul­li­van ar­rived in late 2019, she and CSO Ronald Herb­st, who had joined just sev­er­al months ago from Med­Im­mune, be­gan brain­storm­ing ways to grow Pyx­is’ pipeline. The biotech had start­ed out with nov­el I/O tar­gets iden­ti­fied by promi­nent Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go re­searcher Thomas Gajew­s­ki. But those re­quired a bit more work be­fore they could nom­i­nate drug can­di­dates. Herb­st and the team he had built were itch­ing to get go­ing on some­thing clos­er to the clin­ic.

Giv­en Herb­st’s ex­pe­ri­ence in AD­Cs, the modal­i­ty came up high on the list. This was where the Pfiz­er dis­cus­sions came in, which end­ed up grant­i­ng Pyx­is not just two drug can­di­dates but the whole tech­nol­o­gy plat­form.

“I ac­tu­al­ly watched this tool kit get built,” Sul­li­van said. “I know the sci­en­tists who re­cruit­ed in­to it, and I know the cal­iber of time and in­vest­ment that went in­to it.”

In par­tic­u­lar, they were in­trigued to find AD­Cs that had lo­cal im­muno-mod­u­la­to­ry ef­fects in ad­di­tion to di­rect tu­mor killing ac­tiv­i­ty.

Of the two Pfiz­er AD­Cs, PYX-201 tar­gets a sol­id tu­mor anti­gen while PYX-203 links an an­ti­body to a DNA-dam­ag­ing agent to hit hema­to­log­ic ma­lig­nan­cies. PYX-202, which Pyx­is li­censed from Ko­rea’s LegoChem, is al­so aimed at sol­id tu­mors.

“The im­mune ther­a­py tar­gets that we have or­gan­i­cal­ly grown, that is our I/O pipeline, re­al­ly are fo­cused around the im­mune en­vi­ron­ment of the tu­mor,” Herb­st added. “The ADC tar­gets ad­dress oth­er as­pects” of the tu­mor cells.

Now in chem­istry, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­trol stage, the three AD­Cs will ride the new fund­ing in­to Phase I tri­als while Pyx­is makes fi­nal de­ci­sions about the I/O bi­o­log­ics.

“For us this is more about growth and tak­ing ad­van­tage of the fact that we have a CSO who’s built a team with a breadth of modal­i­ty ex­per­tise and sort of be­ing able to lever­age that to sup­port can­cer pa­tients,” Sul­li­van said.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; 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.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.