Backed by Big Phar­ma VCs, Palleon ramps up a new ap­proach to im­muno-on­col­o­gy with a $48M start­up round

A cou­ple of years ago, GSK’s ven­ture arm SR One brought in Jim Brod­er­ick as its first-ever en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence. And to­day, they’re back­ing his new can­cer R&D play, help­ing bankroll a $47.6 mil­lion start­up round for his up­start biotech Palleon.

Jim Brod­er­ick

These past two years have in­clud­ed an ed­u­ca­tion in the con­verg­ing roles of gly­co­science and hu­man im­munol­o­gy, Brod­er­ick tells me. Start­ing with ob­ser­va­tions on the vary­ing role of gly­cans in ei­ther ac­ti­vat­ing or brak­ing the im­mune sys­tem, his search in­volved bring­ing to­geth­er some of the top sci­en­tists in the field.

“I got in­trigued with this,” says Brod­er­ick. “It was an un­der-ex­plored area.”

Now Palleon and Brod­er­ick plan to re­solve all that.

The com­pa­ny has been hatch­ing what it’s dubbed Gly­coim­mune Check­points, bind­ing to the sug­ar mol­e­cules found on cell sur­faces, which have evolved as tu­mors de­vel­oped dif­fer­ent means of hid­ing from an im­mune sys­tem as­sault. That ap­proach of­fers a new, much broad­er path­way to mount­ing an im­mune sys­tem at­tack on can­cer cells, which Palleon in­tends to ex­ploit.

In par­tic­u­lar, Brod­er­ick is pumped by the prospect that unique pat­terns of gly­cans can be used to iden­ti­fy which pa­tients are most like­ly to re­spond, of­fer­ing a more tar­get­ed de­vel­op­ment strat­e­gy.

Brod­er­ick has been in­volved in a slate of biotech star­tups, in­clud­ing his role as chair­man and co-founder at Ra Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. There are two key sci­en­tif­ic co-founders in his cor­ner now: Howard Hugh­es in­ves­ti­ga­tor Car­olyn Bertozzi at Stan­ford and Paul Crock­er, pro­fes­sor of gly­coim­munol­o­gy and head of the di­vi­sion of cell sig­nal­ing and im­munol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Dundee, Scot­land. That gives you an idea of the glob­al na­ture be­hind the small, Waltham, MA-based biotech.

Along the way, Brod­er­ick says he’s be­come en­am­ored with the ap­proach of the big cor­po­rate ven­ture arms in the in­dus­try. That helps ex­plain his syn­di­cate: SR One, Pfiz­er Ven­tures, Ver­tex Ven­tures HC (out of Sin­ga­pore), Take­da Ven­tures and Ab­b­Vie Ven­tures.

SR One pres­i­dent Jens Eck­stein said:

We are very ex­cit­ed about the launch of Palleon. With­in the dy­nam­ic field of im­muno-on­col­o­gy, Palleon has forged an en­tire­ly new path­way for tar­get­ing the im­mune sys­tem. The unique fea­tures of Gly­coim­mune Check­points will make pos­si­ble a much wider range of ra­tio­nal com­bi­na­tion ther­a­pies to treat can­cer.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

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The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

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Antoine Papiernik, Sofinnova managing director (Business Wire)

Sofinno­va Part­ners stays fo­cused on late-stage deals with a new, $540M crossover fund

One of Europe’s most high-profile biopharma investors is getting $540 million to invest in new crossover deals for late-stage companies.

The Paris-based VC says the fresh Sofinnova Crossover Fund raise positions them as the “largest crossover investor in Europe dedicated to late-stage biopharma and medtech investments.”

They got a leg up in France after winning a special “Tibi” designation from the French government, giving them access to a pool of €6 billion that helped them gain an edge with institutional investors. Since they were founded close to 50 years ago, the venture group has backed more than 500 companies and currently has more than €2 billion under management.

Hal Barron, Endpoints UKBIO19

GSK, Vir's hopes for a Covid-19 an­ti­body fall flat in NIH 'mas­ter pro­to­col' with no ben­e­fit in hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients

GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology were hopeful that one of their partnered antibodies would carve out a win after getting the invite to a major NIH study in hospitalized Covid-19 patients. But just like Eli Lilly, the pair’s drug couldn’t hit the mark, and now they’ll be left to take a hard look at the game plan.

The NIH has shut down enrollment for GSK and Vir’s antibody VIR-7831 in its late-stage ACTIV-3 trial after the drug showed negligible effect in achieving sustained recovery in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the partners said Wednesday.

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As Brain­Storm con­tin­ues to tout ‘clear sig­nal’ on ALS drug, the FDA of­fers a rare pub­lic slap­down on the da­ta

A little more than a week after BrainStorm acknowledged that regulators at the FDA had informed them that the biotech needed more data before it could expect to gain an approval for its ALS treatment NurOwn — while still touting a “clear signal” of efficacy and not ruling out an application — the agency has decided to clarify the record in a most unusual statement.

The FDA statement amounts to a straight slap own, offering a different set of efficacy numbers from the company’s public presentation last November and ruling out any chance of statistical significance.

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In­tro­duc­ing End­points FDA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

Eli Lil­ly claims suc­cess in a new JAK in­di­ca­tion: hair loss

Over the last decade, drugmakers have proven JAK inhibitors can treat a smattering of immune-related diseases ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to Covid-19. Now Eli Lilly has pulled out a new one.

Lilly and its biotech partner Incyte announced Wednesday that their JAK inhibitor baricitinib effectively regrew patients’ hair in a Phase III trial for alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that can cause sudden, severe and patchy hair loss. Lilly didn’t break down the results from the 546-patient trial, but the primary endpoint was improvement on a standard score for alopecia symptoms.

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CEO David Campbell (Janux)

Fresh off $1B+ Mer­ck deal, Janux locks down first pri­vate fundraise for its T cell en­gagers

Janux Therapeutics had kept a relatively low profile since being founded back in 2017 but burst onto the scene late last year when Merck plunked down more than $1 billion in promised milestones for its T cell engagers. Now, less than three months later, the small biotech has clinched its first round of private funding led by some prominent backers.

As it prepares its first programs for INDs, Janux completed a $56 million Series A on Wednesday morning, with Jay Lichter’s Avalon Ventures joining forces with new investors OrbiMed and RA Capital Management to fund the company. Janux will use the cash to primarily advance its T cell engagers targeting PSMA and TROP2, which are expected to hit the clinic in the first and second quarters of 2022, respectively.

Rachel Haurwitz, Caribou CEO (Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A Jen­nifer Doud­na-launched up­start nabs $115M for off-the-shelf CAR-Ts

There is no shortage of biotechs pursuing off-the-shelf CAR-Ts, a so-called Holy Grail in oncology R&D. Now, less than a month after teaming up with AbbVie, a California player launched by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna has returned to the venture well, scooping up a big crossover round to help it along.

Caribou Biosciences took the wraps off a $115 million Series C on Wednesday morning, bringing their total raise to around $157 million, CEO Rachel Haurwitz said.

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