Atre­ca banks a $125M mega-round as it builds a pipeline of an­ti­bod­ies for can­cer and pon­ders IPO tim­ing

In an­oth­er sign that the mon­ey back­ing up­start biotechs — and the val­ue at­tached to new drugs — con­tin­ues to swell, Red­wood City, CA-based Atre­ca to­day is pulling back the cov­ers from a $125 mil­lion mega-round de­signed to get through the ini­tial pre­clin­i­cal phase of de­vel­op­ment.

John Or­win

The work at Atre­ca cen­ters on a plat­form tech that takes tis­sue sam­ples from can­cer pa­tients to ex­plore for ide­al an­ti­bod­ies, us­ing B cells as their sound­ing board. If that seems fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause it’s the same ba­sic tech ap­proach that Seat­tle-based On­coRe­sponse is us­ing, as I re­port­ed ear­li­er in the week with their $40 mil­lion round.

“These an­ti­bod­ies form in the con­text of the pa­tients’ re­sponse, but the anti­gens they’re tar­get­ing are not unique to the pa­tient,” Atre­ca CEO John Or­win tells me. In­stead, they’re af­ter a broad pa­tient pop­u­la­tion that can ben­e­fit. And they’re sleuthing sam­ples in ways that should de­liv­er ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­pies that can be used to tar­get a va­ri­ety of can­cer types — an­oth­er com­mon strat­e­gy in the field.

The CEO notes that the B cells they in­ter­ro­gate “are ex­treme­ly in­for­ma­tion-rich cells” that re­searchers can use to “cap­ture the se­quence in­for­ma­tion used in bioin­for­mat­ics to turn in­to reagents with an eye to de­vel­op­ing an­ti­bod­ies.”

“It’s the way we gen­er­ate the da­ta and the way we use the da­ta to se­lect what we take in­to pre­clin­i­cal test­ing and the way we do pre­clin­i­cal test­ing that we think gives us sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages,” he adds.

By ramp­ing up an in­dus­tri­al ap­proach to the plat­form, Or­win — who helmed Re­lyp­sa un­til its $1.53 bil­lion buy­out — and his crew of 65 at Atre­ca are al­so as­sem­bling a pipeline of ther­a­pies that should in­clude plen­ty of can­di­dates for new bis­pecifics and an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates as well.

Their first Phase I should get un­der­way next year, says the CEO. The $125 mil­lion should last in­to 2020, giv­ing Atre­ca some breath­ing room in 2019 to con­sid­er the right time for an IPO.

Cur­rent­ly on its third round, Atre­ca’s lead in­vestor is stay­ing qui­et for now. That’s a bit un­usu­al at this stage of the game for a round this size. But there were plen­ty of in­vestors in the syn­di­cate who were ready to flag their par­tic­i­pa­tion. They in­clude Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny and Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, based in Boston. New in­vestors Ais­ling Cap­i­tal, Box­er Cap­i­tal of the Tavi­s­tock Group, EcoR1 Cap­i­tal, Red­mile Group, Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal, and funds man­aged by Tekla Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment al­so pitched in.

The DCT-OS: A Tech­nol­o­gy-first Op­er­at­ing Sys­tem - En­abling Clin­i­cal Tri­als

As technology-enabled clinical research becomes the new normal, an integrated decentralized clinical trial operating system can ensure quality, deliver consistency and improve the patient experience.

The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines has many of us looking forward to a time when everyday things return to a state of normal. Schools and teachers are returning to classrooms, offices and small businesses are reopening, and there’s a palpable sense of optimism that the often-awkward adjustments we’ve all made personally and professionally in the last year are behind us, never to return. In the world of clinical research, however, some pandemic-necessitated adjustments are proving to be more than emergency stopgap measures to ensure trial continuity — and numerous decentralized clinical trial (DCT) tools and methodologies employed within the last year are likely here to stay as part of biopharma’s new normal.

Ron DePinho (file photo)

A 'fly­over' biotech launch­es in Texas with four Ron De­Pin­ho-found­ed com­pa­nies un­der its belt

In his 13 years at Genzyme, Michael Wyzga noticed something about East Coast drugmakers. Execs would often jet from Boston or New York to San Francisco to find more assets, and completely miss the work being done in flyover states, like Texas or Wisconsin.

“If it doesn’t come out of MGH or MIT or Harvard, probably not that interesting,” he said of the mindset.

Now, he and some well-known industry players are looking to change that, and they’ve reeled in just over $38 million to do it.

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As­traZeneca caps PD-L1/CT­LA-4/chemo com­bo come­back with OS win. Is treme­li­mum­ab fi­nal­ly ready for ap­proval?

AstraZeneca’s closely-watched POSEIDON study continues to be the rare bright spot in its push for an in-house PD-L1/CTLA-4 combo.

Combining Imfinzi and tremelimumab with physicians’ choice of chemotherapy helped patients with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer live longer, the company reported — marking the first time the still-experimental tremelimumab has demonstrated an OS benefit.

For AstraZeneca and CEO Pascal Soriot, the positive readout — which is devoid of numbers — offers much-needed validation for the big bet they made on Imfinzi plus tremelimumab, after the PD-L1/CTLA-4 regimen failed multiple trials in head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer.

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Onno van de Stolpe, Galapagos CEO (Thierry Roge/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Gala­pa­gos chops in­to their pipeline, drop­ping core fields and re­or­ga­niz­ing R&D as the BD team hunts for some­thing 'trans­for­ma­tive'

Just 5 months after Gilead gutted its rich partnership with Galapagos following a bitter setback at the FDA, the Belgian biotech is hunkering down and chopping the pipeline in an effort to conserve cash while their BD team pursues a mission to find a “transformative” deal for the company.

The filgotinib disaster didn’t warrant a mention as Galapagos laid out its Darwinian restructuring plans. Forced to make choices, the company is ditching its IPF molecule ’1205, while moving ahead with a Phase II IPF study for its chitinase inhibitor ’4617.

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Stéphane Bancel, Getty

Mod­er­na CEO brush­es off US sup­port for IP waiv­er, eyes more than $19B in Covid-19 vac­cine sales in 2021

Moderna is definitively more concerned with keeping pace with Pfizer in the race to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 than it is with Wednesday’s decision from the Biden administration to back an intellectual property waiver that aims to increase vaccine supplies worldwide.

In its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel shrugged off any suggestion that the newly US-backed intellectual property waiver would impact his company’s vaccine or bottom line. Still, the company’s stock price fell by about 9% in early morning trading.

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Ad­comm splits slight­ly in fa­vor of FDA ap­prov­ing Chemo­Cen­tryx’s rare dis­ease drug

The FDA’s Arthritis Advisory Committee on Thursday voted 10 for and 8 against the approval of ChemoCentryx’s $CCXI investigational drug avacopan as a treatment for adults with a rare and serious disease known as anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis.

The vote on whether the FDA should approve the drug was preceded by a split vote of 9 to 9 on whether the efficacy data support approval, and 10 to 8 that the safety profile of avacopan is adequate enough to support approval.

Gold­man Sachs jumps aboard Bain-backed 503(b) com­pound­ing phar­ma­cy with a $275M debt loan to sup­ply hos­pi­tals

Long the bane of the FDA’s existence, compounding pharmacies have seen a minor resurgence in the past year as short-term saviors for hospital drug shortages. Now, a 503(b) company specializing in hospital meds has earned a big backer to keep expanding its 200-drug strong portfolio.

Goldman Sachs and Owl Rock Capital Partners have doled out a $275 million debt loan to QuVa Pharma, a 503(b)-certified outsourcing facility providing compounded drugs to hospitals, the company said Thursday.

Bill Lis, Jasper Therapeutics

Jasper and its stem cell con­di­tion­ing an­ti­body earn a tick­et to Nas­daq in lat­est SPAC re­verse merg­er

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

Another biotech SPAC deal has landed as the glut of blank-check companies continues to make waves in the industry.

Thursday’s winner is Jasper Therapeutics, joining forces with Amplitude Healthcare Acquisition Corp. in a $100 million reverse-merger, Jasper announced. The deal also comes with a PIPE financing of an additional $100 million, setting Jasper up with a $490 million market cap once the merger closes in the third quarter.

Brent Saunders (Richard Drew, AP Images)

OcuWho? Star deal­mak­er turned aes­thet­ics czar Brent Saun­ders flips back in­to biotech. But who’s he team­ing up with now?

Brent Saunders went on a tear of headline-blazing deals building Allergan, merging and rearranging a variety of big companies into one before an M&A pact with Pfizer blew up and sent him on a bout of biotech drug deals. That didn’t work so well, so under pressure, he got his buyout at AbbVie — which needed a big franchise like Botox. And it was no big surprise to see him riding the SPAC wave into a recent $1 billion-plus deal that left him in the executive chairman’s seat at an aesthetics outfit — now redubbed The Beauty Health Company — holding a big chunk of the equity.

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