Backed by part­ners at Pfiz­er, eF­FEC­TOR brings its VC to­tal to $150M as PhII can­cer tri­al looms

With a big as­sist from its Big Phar­ma col­lab­o­ra­tor Pfiz­er, San Diego-based eF­FEC­TOR Ther­a­peu­tics has now added a $38.5 mil­lion round to pay for a Phase II pro­gram to test the com­bi­na­tion of its oral im­muno-ther­a­py drug with avelum­ab (Baven­cio) — Pfiz­er and Mer­ck KGaA’s PD-L1 check­point in­hibitor.

Steve Wor­land

The round com­pletes a se­ries of moves by eF­FEC­TOR, which has moved from pre­clin­i­cal tests to check on the po­ten­tial of a com­bo to ear­ly-stage monother­a­py work to test the drug in a small group of can­cer pa­tients. Pfiz­er had agreed to share the costs of the com­ing Phase II tri­als with eF­FEC­TOR, and Pfiz­er Ven­ture In­vest­ments took the lead on the new round, which brings its to­tal raised to $150 mil­lion.

Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments al­so stepped in for the first time, along­side a big syn­di­cate of found­ing in­vestors that in­cludes a num­ber of cor­po­rate ven­ture arms: U.S. Ven­ture Part­ners, Abing­worth, No­var­tis Ven­ture Fund, SR One, The Col­umn Group, Al­ti­tude Life Sci­ence Ven­tures, Sec­toral As­set Man­age­ment, Ab­b­vie Biotech Ven­tures, Bio­Med Ven­tures, and Astel­las Ven­tures.

The biotech’s lead drug is eFT508, an oral in­hibitor of MNK 1 and 2 ki­nas­es that play a role in evad­ing an im­mune sys­tem at­tack. About a month ago Pfiz­er, Mer­ck KGaA and eF­FEC­TOR signed off on a col­lab­o­ra­tion to fund a split Phase II study that will test a com­bi­na­tion of their two ther­a­pies against colon can­cer with a monother­a­py arm for eFT508.

“The pri­ma­ry role is to trans­la­tion­al­ly reg­u­late gene ex­pres­sion,” CEO Steve Wor­land tells me, with a di­rect ef­fect on the tu­mor “as well as the ef­fect on the im­mune sys­tem’s ca­pa­bil­i­ty to at­tack the tu­mor.”

In Wor­land’s view, the lead drug has po­ten­tial as a monother­a­py, but its best use could well be in com­bi­na­tion with check­point in­hibitors like the PD-L1 drug avelum­ab or LAG3 or oth­er check­points. He ex­pects to have Phase II da­ta avail­able from the pro­gram in mid-2018, but Wor­land isn’t cer­tain that in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be able to pull all the num­bers to­geth­er in time for AS­CO.

Wor­land, the for­mer CEO of Anadys, which was ac­quired by Roche, snagged a $45 mil­lion A round to start the com­pa­ny in 2013, then fol­lowed that with $56 mil­lion more for the B round.

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Tom Barnes (Orna)

The mR­NA era is here. MPM be­lieves the fu­ture be­longs to oR­NA — and Big Phar­ma wants a seat at the ta­ble

If the ultra-fast clinical development of Covid-19 vaccines opened the world’s eyes to the promises of messenger RNA, the subsequent delays in supply offered a crash course on the ultra-complex process of producing them. Even before the formulation and fill-finish steps, mRNA is the precious end product from an arduous journey involving enzyme-aided transcription, modification and purification.

For Bristol Myers Squibb, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Gilead’s Kite and Astellas, it’s time to rethink the way therapeutic RNA is engineered.

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Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

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Michael Rome (Foresite)

In search of 'house­hold health­care brands of the fu­ture,' Fore­site Cap­i­tal rais­es $969M to sa­ti­ate a tech-heavy ap­petite

Back in April 2018, just before Foresite Capital unveiled its $668 million Fund IV and a strategy to focus on tech-driven life science bets, one of its portfolio companies quietly made an announcement.

Fount Therapeutics, a drug discovery outfit backed by Foresite and Eshelman Ventures, had raised $22 million in Series A cash to hatch several fledgling spinouts. “The first ‘NewCo,’ Kinnate, will be focused on developing precision oncology treatments,” read a press release.

S&P ex­pects steady ero­sion in Big Phar­ma's cred­it pro­file in 2021 as new M&A deals roll in — but don't un­der­es­ti­mate their un­der­ly­ing strength

S&P Global has taken a look at the dominant forces shaping the pharma market and come to the conclusion that there will be more downgrades than upgrades in 2021 — the 8th straight year of steady decline.

But it’s not all bad news. Some things are looking up, and there’s still plenty of money to be made in an industry that enjoys a 30% to 40% profit margin, once you factor in steep R&D expenses.

Tal Zaks, Moderna CMO (AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi, via still image from video)

CMO Tal Zaks bids Mod­er­na a sur­prise adieu as biotech projects $18.4B in rev­enue, plots post-Covid ex­pan­sion

How do you exit a company after six years in style? Developing one of the most lucrative and life-saving products in pharma history is probably not the worst way to go.

Tal Zaks, Moderna’s CMO since 2015, will leave the mRNA biotech in September, the biotech disclosed in their annual report this morning. The company has already retained the recruitment firm Russell Reynolds to find a replacement.

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CEO Fabrice Chouraqui (Cellarity)

Flag­ship up­start Cel­lar­i­ty gath­ers $123M to fi­nance its ex­plo­ration of cell be­hav­ior, blaz­ing a new path to build­ing a broad pipeline

Right from the start, the discovery plan at Flagship-spawned Cellarity was to take their cues from cell biology and follow them to new drugs. Rather than start with a target and develop a drug to hit it, they’d use new technology to digitally map cell behavior and then develop new drugs from what they learned.

“Over the past decades it has always been about finding a target, about reducing a disease to a single molecular target,” says Fabrice Chouraqui, the Novartis vet who was recruited to run the operation about 9 months ago. “And that approach has produced thousands of life-saving medicines. Yet, this approach has limitations. A molecular target approach is fine when you talk about a simple disease, but for very complex diseases like neurodegeneration, like metabolic disease, like cancer, you hope to really harness the complexity of human biology.

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank CEO (glen photo/Shutterstock)

Japan's Soft­Bank plots bil­lions in biotech in­vest­ments in move that could keep the val­u­a­tion flood ris­ing — re­port

The valuation crazy train in biotech continues to roll into the new year with more than a dozen companies taking a chance on Nasdaq and money flowing in from all sides. Now, a Japanese institutional investor is reportedly weighing an entry into the market in a big way — will it keep the bitcoin-esque flood rising?

Already a part-time investor in biotech, SoftBank could drop billions of dollars into the industry as part of helmsman Masayoshi Son’s plan to spend around $80 billion of the firm’s own assets, according to a report from Bloomberg citing people familiar with the plan.

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