Bain leads big $70M round as Aptinyx plunges deep­er in­to NM­DA work

Two years af­ter Aptinyx spun out of Nau­rex in the wake of Al­ler­gan’s $560 mil­lion buy­out, the biotech is much fur­ther along in the pipeline than your av­er­age fledg­ling. It just tacked on a hefty $70 mil­lion B round to beef up the work and dri­ve deep­er to­ward a piv­otal phase of de­vel­op­ment. And the new kid on the VC block, Bain Cap­i­tal Life Sci­ences, jumped out to lead the round, with man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Adam Kop­pel join­ing the board.

Nor­bert Riedel

The biotech didn’t ex­act­ly have to have that kind of mon­ey right now, says CEO Nor­bert Riedel, but when you’re look­ing to keep your op­tions open for every even­tu­al­i­ty — in­clud­ing a po­ten­tial IPO — a mez­za­nine round like this can make a lot of sense.

“We de­cid­ed to do this round to re­main in a re­al­ly, re­al­ly strong po­si­tion,” says Riedel, who’s stayed in touch pe­ri­od­i­cal­ly as he ex­plores find­ing just the right way to mod­u­late NM­DA re­cep­tors for a va­ri­ety of dis­eases.

Al­ler­gan bagged the group’s work on de­pres­sion, avid to leap in­to a late-stage study with an NM­DA drug that’s promi­nent in their Phase III pipeline. And Al­ler­gan was fine with leav­ing the rest of Nau­rex’s ex­per­i­men­tal work in the hands of the team that had brought it along. The break­away biotech is still fo­cused on NM­DA, but the lead pro­gram for NYX-2925 is in a Phase II for neu­ropa­thy pain with some ex­plorato­ry work un­der­way in fi­bromyal­gia. Next there’s a Phase I for NYX-783 in PTSD and a pre­clin­i­cal pro­gram mov­ing to­ward its first hu­man study.

“Now we can con­tin­ue to de­vel­op our pipeline un­til the end of 2019, about 2 years,” says the CEO. And that should give them time to col­lect Phase II da­ta on the two lead drugs and make some key de­ci­sions about when to launch Phase III, if all goes ac­cord­ing to plan.

Adam Kop­pel

Bain was a good fit for the lead on this round, which at­tract­ed a big group of in­vestors fol­low­ing the $65 mil­lion launch round. Ricky Sun played a big part in this, right along with Kop­pel. Both are Bio­gen vets, notes Riedel, and no strangers to CNS re­search.

Why not do an IPO now, with the win­dow open?

Riedel isn’t ex­clud­ing that op­tion for 2018, but he felt now was the right time to make sure the com­pa­ny was well fi­nanced. Part­ner­ships, IPOs and fur­ther fi­nanc­ings can all be stud­ied at a mea­sured pace.

“I think we’re in no rush,” Kop­pel tells me. “This is one we’re go­ing to be pa­tient with.”

What does Kop­pel see as his main role?

Play­ing a key role in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the crossovers and pub­lic in­vestors dur­ing a tran­si­tion to fo­cus on the “longterm in­vestor with fun­da­men­tal val­ue cre­ation, not just the next step.”

If the time is right for an IPO in late 2018 or ear­ly 2019, they may go for it, he says. In the mean­time, he counts him­self as a big fan of Riedel and the whole team at Aptinyx.

Here’s the rest of the syn­di­cate:

New in­vestors with Bain in­clude Adage Cap­i­tal, Agent Cap­i­tal, HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Nan Fung Life Sci­ences, Part­ner Fund Man­age­ment, and Rock Springs Cap­i­tal. Ex­ist­ing in­vestors al­so par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Se­ries B round, in­clud­ing New Leaf Ven­ture Part­ners, Fra­zier Health­care Part­ners, Lon­gi­tude Cap­i­tal, Os­age Uni­ver­si­ty Part­ners, Adams Street Part­ners, LVP Life Sci­ence Ven­tures, Patho­Cap­i­tal, Goudy Park Cap­i­tal, Beeck­en Pet­ty O’Keefe & Com­pa­ny, and North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty.


Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

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