Rahul Ballal, Imara

As sick­le cell pa­tients find new op­tions, NEA-found­ed Imara pitch­es mid-stage al­ter­na­tive for $86M IPO

No­vem­ber 2019 proved to be a fruit­ful month for pa­tients with blood dis­or­ders known as he­mo­glo­binopathies. With­in days, the FDA ush­ered two drugs for sick­le cell dis­ease and an­oth­er for be­ta tha­lassemia to the mar­ket — liven­ing up a bar­ren field.

Willem Scheele Imara

Imara, a rel­a­tive­ly young plow­er, is rid­ing on that en­thu­si­asm as it shoots for an $86.25 mil­lion IPO.

Imara emerged from New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates’ or­phan drug ac­cel­er­a­tor Cy­dan in 2016 as a sin­gle-prod­uct com­pa­ny. $77.3 mil­lion in pri­vate fi­nanc­ing lat­er IMR-687 re­mains the sole as­set in its pipeline; the dif­fer­ence is the drug is now in Phase II for sick­le cell dis­ease, with topline da­ta slat­ed for lat­er this year and two oth­er mid-stage be­ta tha­lassemia stud­ies lined up.

IMR-687 was one of a group of small mol­e­cule PDE9 in­hibitors that Imara had li­censed from Lund­beck for a song — $1.8 mil­lion to-date — af­ter ev­i­dence emerged that the class of ther­a­pies, orig­i­nal­ly de­signed for neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­eases, could help ad­dress ab­nor­mal­i­ties in red blood cells. Pfiz­er is al­so de­vel­op­ing a PDE9 in­hibitor for SCD af­ter dis­con­tin­u­ing a pro­gram in Alzheimer’s.

Michael Gray Imara

The the­o­ry is that block­ing PDE9 in­creas­es cyclic GMP lev­els, which is as­so­ci­at­ed with re­ac­ti­va­tion of fe­tal he­mo­glo­bin and thus re­store some func­tion­al­i­ty im­paired in blood dis­or­ders.

In con­trast, No­var­tis’ Adakveo is an in­jec­tion that blocks P-se­lectin in hopes of stop­ping va­so-oc­clu­sion, while Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics’ Oxbry­ta in­hibits he­mo­glo­bin S poly­mer­iza­tion to pre­vent red blood cells from form­ing the sick­le shape. Re­blozyl, mar­ket­ed by Cel­gene (now Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb) and Ac­celeron, is a fu­sion pro­tein that boosts red blood cell growth in ane­mic pa­tients by tar­get­ing TGF-be­ta pro­teins.

While Re­blozyl is on­ly ap­proved for pa­tients who re­quire reg­u­lar trans­fu­sions, Imara hopes to al­so ad­dress those who are not de­pen­dent on the pro­ce­dure.

While al­lo­gene­ic hematopoi­et­ic stem cell trans­plants can be cu­ra­tive for both sick­le cell dis­ease and be­ta tha­lassemia, Imara not­ed that it’s rarely used due to a cum­ber­some process. Sim­i­lar­ly, while gene ther­a­pies by blue­bird and gene edit­ing ap­proach­es be­ing ad­vanced by CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics are promis­ing, they are “com­plex, cost­ly, dif­fi­cult to ad­min­is­ter and po­ten­tial­ly on­ly suit­able for a lim­it­ed sub­set of pa­tients,” ex­ecs wrote in the S-1.

David Mott NEA

CEO Rahul Bal­lal leads the team of 16. His com­pen­sa­tion pack­age last year to­taled $2 mil­lion, thanks in large part to op­tion awards. CFO Michael Gray re­ceived $1.2 mil­lion-plus while CMO Willem Scheele got a lit­tle over $1 mil­lion.

NEA, rep­re­sent­ed on the board by chair­man David Mott as well as Sara Nay­eem, re­mains the largest share­hold­er at 31.8%. Lund­beck­fond In­vest holds 16.3%; Pfiz­er is in for 11.2%, Or­biMed and Ar­ix 10.8%, Bay City Cap­i­tal 6.4% and RA Cap­i­tal 5.6%.

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Bull­ish biotech mar­ket pro­pels Pli­ant to $144M IPO — as No­var­tis pro­vides a $10M boost

After pharma partner Novartis boosted its IPO with a $10 million private placement, Pliant Therapeutics has wrapped its journey to the Nasdaq on a high note.

Pliant had penciled in a $86 million raise back in May. But as has become the norm in recent months, that initial number has turned out to be a mere placeholder, making way for the final haul of $144 million.

The South San Francisco biotech did so by pricing at $16, the high end of the range, while bringing the number of shares offered up to 9 million.

A low-pro­file biotech bests Re­gen­eron in high-pro­file patent suit

For nearly a decade now, the low-profile Cambridge biotech Kymab has been battling in US, UK, Japanese and Australian courts with the biotech behemoth Regeneron.

Regeneron has turned itself into a $70 billion company off of a platform of transgenically humanized mice they can use to make antibodies for anything from Ebola to colorectal cancer. The technology took decades and billions to build, 20 years from the company’s founding to the first approved drug. And the company guards and touts it zealously, breaking their production process down into various branded components — Velocimmune, Velocigene, Velocimouse and four other Velocis — and sometimes suing would-be copycats. In 2014, most notably, they sued two Pfizer-backed entities for patent infringement.

Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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FDA de­lays de­ci­sion on No­var­tis’ po­ten­tial block­buster MS drug, wip­ing away pri­or­i­ty re­view

So much for a speedy review.

In February, Novartis announced that an application for their much-touted multiple sclerosis drug ofatumumab had been accepted and, with the drug company cashing in on one of their priority review vouchers, the agency was due for a decision by June.

But with June less than 48 hours old, Novartis announced the agency has extended their review, pushing back the timeline for approval or rejection to September. The Swiss pharma filed the application in December, meaning their new schedule will be nearly in line with the standard 10-month window period had they not used the priority voucher.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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