Au­to­lus en­gi­neers a $100M-plus IPO for it­self as it blue­prints a new gen­er­a­tion of bet­ter, safer cell ther­a­pies

The Lon­don-based T cell en­gi­neers at Au­to­lus are steer­ing the com­pa­ny to a $100 mil­lion-plus IPO, hop­ing to bank on a so far in­sa­tiable ap­petite for a new gen­er­a­tion of cell ther­a­pies built to out­strip the pi­o­neers in the mar­ket.

Chris­t­ian Itin

Helmed by Mi­cromet vet Chris­t­ian Itin, Au­to­lus has been tout­ing its ear­ly-stage ap­proach to CD19 bind­ing with a quick dis­en­gage­ment strat­e­gy that they be­lieve will great­ly re­duce the risk of cy­tokine storms that fre­quent­ly af­flict pa­tients — a tox­i­c­i­ty that has lim­it­ed their ini­tial use.

Be­yond that, though, they al­so have built in mul­ti­ple bind­ing tech­nol­o­gy for BC­MA and TACI, to amp up ef­fec­tive­ness in mul­ti­ple myelo­ma. And there’s a CD22 binder that can latch on­to 5 dif­fer­ent do­mains. Like many in the field, Au­to­lus sees a big fu­ture for it­self in both blood can­cers and sol­id tu­mors, which have elud­ed the first gen drugs.

Mar­tin Pule

Au­to­lus was spun out of the lab of Mar­tin Pule at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Years ago Pule — now CSO at Au­to­lus — got a chance to help with some of the pi­o­neer­ing re­search go­ing in­to reengi­neer­ing T cells in­to can­cer ther­a­pies at Mal­colm Bren­ner’s lab at Bay­lor Col­lege of Med­i­cine.

In the F-1 they filed, Au­to­lus ex­plains that it is look­ing to build its own man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions and has some new tech in mind for its next round of safe­ty switch­es to use to defuse their cell ther­a­pies if they pose a threat to their pa­tient.

The next gen­er­a­tion of our safe­ty switch­es, which we plan to in­cor­po­rate in our sol­id tu­mor pro­grams, uti­lizes ra­pamycin ac­ti­vat­ed Cas­pase 9 (ra­paCasp9), a cell ther­a­py safe­ty switch that al­lows for se­lec­tive elim­i­na­tion of pro­grammed T cells us­ing a sin­gle ther­a­peu­tic dose of the com­mer­cial­ly avail­able prod­uct ra­pamycin, such as sirolimus or Ra­pa­mun

Au­to­lus had $129 mil­lion in cash on hand at the end of 2017.

Syn­cona is the big share­hold­er in the mix at Au­to­lus, with 40% of the eq­ui­ty. Neil Wood­ford’s groups are be­hind that, with 27% while Ar­ix has 9% and Itin him­self owns 3.6%.

I se­lect­ed Au­to­lus as one of our E11 biotechs ear­li­er this year.

Nick Galakatos, Blackstone global head of life sciences

Nick Galakatos and the Black­stone team now have a record $4.6B to in­vest in bio­phar­ma, with a big fo­cus on push­ing com­pa­nies over the top

Nick Galakatos and his team at Blackstone Life Sciences have seen their biggest opportunities swell up in mostly established players who don’t have all the money they need to accomplish everything on the to-do list. And right now, with the industry booming, that’s a long list with some hefty needs.

The Blackstone team has neatly tied up the largest private fund ever raised in life sciences for making big dreams come true in biopharma. Late Thursday, Blackstone put out word that they had closed their highly anticipated fund with the projected $4.6 billion all in.

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UP­DAT­ED: Bio­gen shares spike as ex­ecs com­plete a de­layed pitch for their con­tro­ver­sial Alzheimer's drug — the next move be­longs to the FDA

Biogen is stepping out onto the high wire today, reporting that the team working on the controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab has now completed their submission to the FDA. And they want the agency to bless it with a priority review that would cut the agency’s decision-making time to a mere 6 months.

The news drove a 10% spike in Biogen’s stock $BIIB ahead of the bell.

Part of that spike can be attributed to a relief rally. Biogen execs rattled backers and a host of analysts earlier in the year when they unexpectedly delayed their filing to the third quarter. That delay provoked all manner of speculation after CEO Michel Vounatsos and R&D chief Al Sandrock failed to persuade influential observers that the pandemic and other factors had slowed the timeline for filing. Actually making the pitch at least satisfies skeptics that the FDA was not likely pushing back as Biogen was pushing in. From the start, Biogen execs claimed that they were doing everything in cooperation with the FDA, saying that regulators had signaled their interest in reviewing the submission.

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An­oth­er four biotechs scratch out the first num­ber and ask for more as IPO boom con­tin­ues

Four more biotechs are raising their offers in an already record year for biotech IPOs.

Softbank-backed Relay Therapeutics scratched out its original $200 million filing and proposed a $250 million raise that would make them a $1.5 billion company. CAR-T developer Poseida Therapeutics bumped itself up $74 million to $224 million. Off-the-shelf cell therapy startup Nkarta upped from $150 million to $215 million — and then priced even higher, at $252 million. France’s Inventiva did its own modest reset, raising its bar from $102 million to $108 million.

Oph­thalmic drugs, can­cer cell ther­a­pies at­tract $340M+ on two HKEX biotech de­buts

Nasdaq may be running the main biotech IPO show, but the Hong Kong stock exchange has some stellar performance on display even as the city confronts a third wave of Covid-19.

Ocumension Therapeutics and Immunotech Biopharm both traded up after making their public debuts on the HKEX’s busiest IPO day of the year so far, with seven stocks getting listed. The former raised close to $200 million while the latter took home $141 million.

Gilead boasts of pos­i­tive remde­sivir da­ta on mor­tal­i­ty — but their analy­sis pro­vokes the skep­tics

Gilead is surging again off data that suggest its antiviral remdesivir might improve survival.

The new data come from an analysis Gilead conducted comparing the death rate and recovery time of patients in one of its remdesivir trials to a group of 800 patients “with similar baseline characteristics and disease severity” who received only standard-of-care around the same time. The result, they said, suggested that patients who received remdesivir had a 62% better chance at surviving than those who did not.

Hal Barron, GSK

Win or lose on the mar­ket­ing OK, the FDA just gunned down GSK’s bright hopes for their BC­MA ther­a­py

The FDA’s ODAC — the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee — has a well-known bias in favor of adding new cancer drugs to the market, even if efficacy is at best marginal and serious safety issues demand careful management.

Doctors want as many arrows in their quiver as they can get. And when patients are dying after failing multiple drugs, why not give it a go one more time?

GlaxoSmithKline, though, is about to test out how their new BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin can do after being mauled in an in-house FDA review, ahead of the Tuesday expert panel discussion. Even if the agency goes ahead with an expected green light, this drug will likely be constrained to a small niche — icing any plans they may have for making waves in oncology anytime soon.

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Covid-19 roundup: BioN­Tech go­ing head-to-head with Mod­er­na as PhI­II mR­NA launch looms; Tri­al on Shin­zo Abe’s once-fa­vorite an­tivi­ral is in­con­clu­sive

It’s a race to the Phase III finish line now for the 2 leading mRNA vaccines in the pipeline for Covid-19.

BioNTech chief Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal that his company will start Phase III testing of their vaccine later this month, setting them up to lateral the data to regulators before the end of this year.

That puts them essentially on the exact same schedule as Moderna is dedicated to. The Massachusetts rival to BioNTech also expects to launch Phase III this month. Lots of rumors have circulated about delays and conflict among the scientists advancing the Moderna jab, but the biotech has consistently stuck to its plan to start a late-stage pivotal this month.

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Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer speaks at a meeting with President Donald Trump, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, and pharmaceutical executives in the Cabinet Room of the White House (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OWS shifts spot­light to drugs to fight Covid-19, hand­ing Re­gen­eron $450M to be­gin large scale man­u­fac­tur­ing in the US

The US government is on a spending spree. And after committing billions to vaccines defense operations are now doling out more of the big bucks through Operation Warp Speed to back a rapid flip of a drug into the market to stop Covid-19 from ravaging patients — possibly inside of 2 months.

The beneficiary this morning is Regeneron, the big biotech engaged in a frenzied race to develop an antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 that just started a late-stage program to prove its worth in fighting the virus. BARDA and the Department of Defense are awarding Regeneron a $450 million contract to cover bulk delivery of the cocktail starting as early as late summer, with money added for fill/finish and storage activities.

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Top biotech an­a­lyst projects a gloomy out­look for Pfiz­er's JAK port­fo­lio

Many in the pharma world are hoping — better yet, expecting — JAK inhibitors to provide one of the next big boons for the industry. Few have invested as heavily in this area as Pfizer, which boasts a portfolio including Xeljanz and at least five mid-to-late stage candidates in the pipeline.

But a top Wall Street analyst is pumping the brakes on just how much good fortune is in store for the Big Pharma.