Atlas creates second opportunity fund with $300M; BioNTech's colorectal cancer vaccine starts PhII trial
Life science VC Atlas Venture closed its second Opportunity Fund with $300 million. Known as AVOF II, the fund will enable Atlas to continue backing its portfolio companies, according to a company statement.
“We are delighted to receive support from both our longstanding LP base and new investors in AVOF II, for our mission of building and scaling biotech companies that can bring novel medicines to patients,” said Atlas partner David Grayzel in a statement.
Atlas has incubated or funded a series of different biotechs across several new fields since its last fund closed, including the rare blood disorder startup Disc Medicine, the obesity startup Versanis and the RNA startup Remix.
BioNTech starts treating patients with cancer vaccine in Phase II trial
The first colorectal cancer patient has been treated with BioNTech’s individualized mRNA cancer vaccine in a Phase II clinical trial, BioNTech announced today.
The trial — which plans to enroll about 200 patients in total across the United States, Germany, Spain and Belgium — will be looking at preventing recurrence of Stage II/III colorectal cancer tumors after patients have completed both surgery and chemo.
A proportion of these patients are expected to have a recurrence within 2-3 years after surgery, according to a BioNTech statement. Patients deemed high risk for recurrence will be identified early with a ctDNA blood test.
“This trial is an important milestone in our efforts to bringing individualized immunotherapies to patients,” said BioNTech co-founder and CMO Özlem Türeci.
BioNTech is one of a couple mRNA companies working on personalized cancer vaccines. Fellow Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna released data late last year on their personalized cancer vaccine in conjunction with PD-1 drug Keytruda.
Takeda and JCR to collaborate on Hunter syndrome treatment
Takeda joined forces with JCR Pharmaceuticals to commercialize JCR’s investigational fusion protein treatment JR-141, Takeda announced yesterday.
The drug targets the iduronate-2-sulfatase (IDS) enzyme for the treatment of Hunter syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by a deficiency of IDS in the body, rendering the body unable to break down certain complex sugars. This results in buildup of these molecules in all tissues, and can also result in stunted growth and heart valve issues.
Under the terms of the exclusive collaboration and license agreement, Takeda will exclusively commercialize JR-141 outside of the United States, including Canada and Europe, among others (excluding Japan and specific undisclosed Asia-Pacific countries, according to Takeda’s statement).
JCR will receive an upfront payment for an undisclosed amount, with potential for development and commercial milestone milestones as well as tiered royalties on potential sales.
Under a separate agreement, Takeda receives an option to acquire an exclusive license to commercialize JR-141 in the US upon completion of a Phase III clinical trial, which will be run by JCR.
“JCR is pleased to have reached an agreement with Takeda who is well placed to achieve our common goal of maximizing the impact of JR-141,” said JCR president and chairman Shin Ashida in a statement.
PhRMA sues state of Arkansas over 340B law
Lobbying firm PhRMA sued Arkansas’ insurance department commissioner Alan McClain and attorney general Leslie Rutledge on Wednesday to stop the state from requiring drugmakers to provide drugs discounted under the 340B program to contract pharmacies.
In the federal 340B program, drugmakers agree to offer certain discounts to certain providers in exchange for participation in Medicare and Medicaid. These types of providers can include hospitals and community health centers but Arkansas’ law seeks to add contract pharmacies as another covered entity.
PhRMA contends in the lawsuit that the law violates the constitution’s Commerce Clause, which governs commerce among states.