Astellas signs on pluripotent stem cell partners at ExCellThera; Little Unicycive brings home $25M after floating a small IPO
Astellas has signed up on rights for a batch of pluripotent stem cells from Montreal-based ExCellThera, centering on the in vitro use of their UM171 compound.
Astellas is handing over an unspecified upfront payment and promising a slate of milestones to get the collaboration underway.
Guy Sauvageau, CEO and founder of ExCellThera, noted:
While ExCellThera has focused on developing our core strength in other therapeutic areas, Astellas has invested significantly in PSC-related programs and is absolutely the right partner for us in that regard.
— John Carroll
Little Unicycive brings home $25M after floating a small IPO
Not all biotech IPOs involve big, upsized offerings and megacash winnings. Take the case of Unicycive Therapeutics.
The biotech has just raised $25 million gross by selling 5 million shares at $5 a pop. That comes in at the low end of the range.
Unicycive is developing drugs for kidney disease, and gave “underwriters a 45-day option to purchase up to an additional 750,000 shares of its common stock and/or warrants to purchase up to an additional 600,000 shares of its common stock, at the initial public offering price, less the underwriting discounts and commissions.” — John Carroll
Aslan gets a $45M loan to pay for a looming PhII study
After experiencing a host of problems with its early cancer drugs, Singapore-based Aslan Pharmaceuticals is now taking out a $45 million loan to fund mid-stage work on ASLAN003. They’ll start with a focus on inflammatory bowel disease with a Phase II planned for early 2022.
Aslan has been in plenty of hot water with investors, especially after a 2019 trial failure. So they’ve turned to K2 HealthVentures for the first $20 million loan with the rest of the money subject to “certain terms and conditions.”
“These resources provide additional working capital, strengthen our balance sheet, and enhance our financial flexibility by extending our expected cash runway through late 2023, as we look forward to expanding our clinical activities for ASLAN003,” said Aslan CEO Carl Firth. — John Carroll
CureVac executives ditched shares before vaccine flop news broke: report
On Tuesday, Business Insider reported that four members of CureVac’s board ditched large blocks of shares worth more than $38 million as the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate flopped. Wednesday, the company clapped back, deeming the reports untrue.
The price of the German biotech dropped around 50% after the disappointing efficacy results were announced. But board members sold nearly all of their remaining shares, including company co-founder Florian von der Mülbe, who ditched about half of his by June 21, when the four executives reported such to the SEC. Current chief technology officer Mariola Fotin-Mleczek sold 99% of shares, Business Insider reports.
In a statement emailed to Endpoints News, a CureVac spokesperson said:
The reports that individual members of the Board of Management have sold almost all of their blocks of shares is not true. We contradict this reporting, the following is correct: As stated in the relevant SEC documents, the CureVac NV board members have blocks of shares in the form of virtual shares (Virtual Share Ownership) as part of their compensation. Parts of these virtual shares are converted into real shares and made available according to defined development milestones for building up the company – e.g. an IPO, start of a clinical approval study for the first pharmaceutical product, etc. For the IPO on the New York technology company exchange NASDAQ, this part was 10%. In our 20F document, you can see how that percentage, after tax, translates into realizable shares for the board members. Even if these shares were completely sold, they would only represent a small proportion of the respective block of shares held per board member. The representation that an almost complete sale of company shares by the board of directors due to a lack of faith in CureVac is not applicable – we disagree.
— Josh Sullivan
NASH liver disease drug deemed safe in PhIIa
Hepion Pharmaceuticals announced that its Phase IIa trial of a liver disease drug for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis was safe and well-tolerated, with few side effects.
The drug — dubbed CRV431 — was provided in either a 75 mg or 225 mg oral dose once daily, and reached maximum concentrations within 30 hours.
“Statistical significance in a dose response on ALT is very encouraging, suggesting a rapid drug effect. A thorough review of literature by our group suggested that a 10% to 15% decline in ALT in four weeks over placebo would indicate a beneficial drug effect,” SVP of clinical pharmacology Patrick Mayo said in a statement. “Our clinical pharmacology group has already developed a population pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic, or PK-PD, model which predicts CRV431 blood concentration effect on ALT reductions, which is not usually possible at this early stage in drug development.” — Josh Sullivan