Bing Yao. Viela Bio

As­traZeneca spin­out Viela Bio pock­ets $75M on its way to BLA for au­toim­mune drug

On the verge of a BLA fil­ing for its lead drug in a pipeline spun out of As­traZeneca, Viela Bio has pushed its ven­ture fund­ing over the $300 mil­lion line.

The $75 mil­lion Se­ries B comes over a year af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant’s Med­Im­mune sub­sidiary pack­aged six drugs from its res­pi­ra­to­ry, in­flam­ma­tion & au­toim­mune unit in­to a $250 mil­lion biotech play­er. Bing Yao, who head­ed that team, is lead­ing Viela Bio as CEO.

With the new cash, the team — lo­cat­ed at Med­Im­mune’s base of Gaithers­burg, MD — ex­pects to get inebi­lizum­ab to the FDA soon, Yao said. The drug, which binds to CD19, is be­ing prepped to treat neu­romyelitis op­ti­ca spec­trum dis­or­der, or NMOSD, an au­toim­mune dis­ease marked by in­flam­ma­tion of the op­tic nerve and spinal cord.

A Phase IIb piv­otal tri­al showed that pa­tients re­ceiv­ing the ther­a­py ex­pe­ri­enced a 77% de­crease in the risk of de­vel­op­ing an NMOSD at­tack ver­sus place­bo.

While se­cur­ing an ap­proval for this in­di­ca­tion will be the pri­or­i­ty, “we be­lieve this fi­nanc­ing al­so puts us in a strong po­si­tion to pur­sue ad­di­tion­al new in­di­ca­tions with inebi­lizum­ab,” Yao added.

Op­er­at­ing un­der a biotech struc­ture while work­ing with old col­leagues from Med­Im­mune and get­ting sup­port — in terms of fi­nances as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing — from As­traZeneca have helped ac­cel­er­ate the de­vel­op­ment of Viela’s drugs, Yao told Bio­Space in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“It’s al­most like a con­tin­u­a­tion of Med­Im­mune,” he said.

The Med­Im­mune brand name has since been swept away in a com­pa­ny-wide R&D re­or­ga­ni­za­tion or­ches­trat­ed by chief Pas­cal So­ri­ot, which saw sev­er­al ex­ecs de­part to make way for a new struc­ture de­mar­cat­ed by on­col­o­gy.

In prepa­ra­tion for its BLA, Viela Bio has al­so inked a com­mer­cial deal with sea­soned Chi­nese phar­ma Han­soh cen­tered around inebi­lizum­ab. All told, the deal is worth up to $220 mil­lion in­clud­ing up­front and mile­stones.

The oth­er two clin­i­cal pro­grams are ME­DI4920, an an­ti-CD40L-Tn3 fu­sion pro­tein for an in­flam­ma­to­ry con­di­tion called pri­ma­ry Sjö­gren’s syn­drome, and ME­DI7734 for myosi­tis.

HBM Health­care In­vest­ments led the round, which saw a num­ber of new in­vestors in­clud­ing Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Ter­ra Mag­num Cap­i­tal Part­ners, Gold­man Sachs, and Bar­er & Son Cap­i­tal. Temasek was the on­ly ex­ist­ing backer named in the re­lease; the pre­vi­ous syn­di­cate al­so fea­tured Boyu Cap­i­tal, 6 Di­men­sions Cap­i­tal and Hill­house Cap­i­tal.

Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Am­gen, Al­ler­gan biosim­i­lar of Roche's block­buster Rit­ux­an clears an­oth­er US piv­otal study 

Novartis $NVS may have given up, but Amgen $AMGN and Allergan $AGN are plowing ahead with their knockoff of Roche’s blockbuster biologic Rituxan in the United States.

Their copycat, ABP 798, was found to have a clinically equivalent impact as Rituxan — meeting the main goal of the study involving CD20-positive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. This is the second trial supporting the profile of the biosimilar. In January, it came through with positive PK results in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

BeiGene and Mus­tang nail down spe­cial FDA sta­tus for top drugs; Roche bags added cov­er­age for Hem­li­bra

→ BeiGene $BGNE is getting a boost in its drive to field a rival to Imbruvica. The FDA has offered an accelerated review to zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor that has posted positive results for mantle cell lymphoma. The PDUFA date lands on February 27, 2020. The drug scored breakthrough status at the beginning of the year.

→ BeiGene isn’t the only biopharma company to gain special regulatory status today. Mustang Bio $MBIO and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced that MB-107, a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, also known as bubble boy disease, has been granted Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy status.

Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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