Bain’s Adam Kop­pel com­mits $350M to launch­ing a new biotech that is carv­ing out Pfiz­er’s neu­ro pipeline

Adam Kop­pel and his team at Bain Cap­i­tal are carv­ing out the neu­ro­sciences pipeline that Pfiz­er shut­tered at the be­gin­ning of the year, set­ting aside $350 mil­lion to back a start­up called Cerev­el which will now take con­trol of the work.

All of the mon­ey for this deal — to be an­nounced lat­er Tues­day morn­ing — is com­ing from Bain Cap­i­tal Pri­vate Eq­ui­ty and Kop­pel’s Bain Cap­i­tal Life Sci­ences.

Doug Gior­dano

Pfiz­er star­tled the neu­ro­sciences world at the be­gin­ning of this year with its de­ci­sion to abrupt­ly bow out of the field — ax­ing about 300 staffers in the process. Now Kop­pel is work­ing on re­cruit­ing his own team, which will be charged with tak­ing their 10 pro­grams through a planned Phase III, a Phase II and a slate of pre­clin­i­cal and ear­ly-stage work.

“This is a very unique deal for Bain Cap­i­tal,” Kop­pel tells me. But it’s al­so not like­ly the last time the pri­vate eq­ui­ty group will stand up new com­pa­nies like this. He com­pares it to Spring­Works, a com­pa­ny fund­ed by Bain, Or­biMed and oth­ers that took a slate of 4 drug pro­grams off the shelves of Pfiz­er last fall and point­ed them back in­to de­vel­op­ment.

The start­up al­so pops up in the wake of a sim­i­lar deal at Al­lo­gene, which raced to pick up Pfiz­er’s off-the-shelf CAR-T work and bar­rel straight in­to a record-set­ting IPO to back the play by Arie Bellde­grun and David Chang. In Al­lo­gene’s case though, the part­ners were gift­ed with a team of 40 Pfiz­er re­searchers who were deeply en­gaged in the process.

In this case, Kop­pel says they are bring­ing over a few Pfiz­er staffers, but not many. “There are a cou­ple of key peo­ple com­ing over, but it’s not a lot, as we are large­ly fo­cused on build­ing out a team,” he notes.

Aside from Pfiz­er’s BACE drug, which is be­ing left aside in the wake of a de­fin­i­tive late-stage fail­ure for the lead BACE at Mer­ck, Cerev­el is get­ting every­thing Pfiz­er had, with plans to be ful­ly op­er­a­tional in Q1 2019.

Mor­ris Birn­baum

Pfiz­er, which gets 25% of the eq­ui­ty in Cerev­el in ex­change for the pipeline, al­so plans to stay di­rect­ly en­gaged at the com­pa­ny, with Doug Gior­dano, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of world­wide busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, and Mor­ris Birn­baum, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, CSO of in­ter­nal med­i­cine, join­ing the board along­side Kop­pel and Chris Gor­don, an­oth­er man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at Bain.

Kop­pel is still keep­ing many of his cards close to his vest. He’s not say­ing how many staffers he ex­pects to re­cruit for the ini­tial ef­fort. An IPO may even­tu­al­ly be one way to go, but it’s not on his agen­da for dis­cussing with writ­ers to­day. 

The com­pa­ny won’t lack for mon­ey; Bain is ready to put up more cash if nec­es­sary.

Says Kop­pel: “This com­pa­ny will be well fund­ed.”

Their mon­ey will go to a late-stage D1 par­tial ag­o­nist, which Kop­pel ex­pects to en­ter Phase III next year as they ex­plore the drug’s po­ten­tial for con­trol­ling symp­toms of Parkin­son’s. A Phase II-ready se­lec­tive GA­BA 2/3 ag­o­nist will start off in an epilep­sy pro­gram. The com­pa­ny al­so has ac­tive pro­grams in ear­ly de­vel­op­ment, dis­cov­ery and a re­search pro­gram in neu­roin­flam­ma­tion. 

I sug­gest­ed that neu­ro­sciences, which has seen a va­ri­ety of Big Phar­mas bow out in the wake of fear­some fail­ure rates, was a tough field to jump in­to. But Kop­pel didn’t agree, cit­ing cas­es where Sage, Neu­ro­crine and oth­ers have been mak­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for them­selves.

The key here, he says, is whether a lean­er, mean­er biotech ma­chine can more ef­fi­cient­ly de­vel­op this pipeline of drugs, which is an idea that Pfiz­er is wide open to. And if it works, they can be one of the lead­ing biotechs in the field as well.


Im­age: Adam Kop­pel. BAIN

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Deborah Dunsire. Lundbeck

Deb­o­rah Dun­sire is pay­ing $2B for a chance to leap di­rect­ly in­to a block­buster show­down with a few of the world's biggest phar­ma gi­ants

A year after taking the reins as CEO of Lundbeck, Deborah Dunsire is making a bold bid to beef up the Danish biotech’s portfolio of drugs in what will likely be a direct leap into an intense rivalry with a group of giants now carving up a growing market for new migraine drugs.

Bright and early European time the company announced that it will pay up to about $2 billion to buy Alder, a little biotech that is far along the path in developing a quarterly IV formulation for a CGRP drug aimed at cutting back the number of crippling migraines patients experience each month.

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Lisa M. DeAngelis, MSKCC

MSK picks brain can­cer ex­pert Lisa DeAn­ge­lis as its next CMO — fol­low­ing José Basel­ga’s con­tro­ver­sial ex­it

It’s official. Memorial Sloan Kettering has picked a brain cancer expert as its new physician-in-chief and CMO, replacing José Baselga, who left under a cloud after being singled out by The New York Times and ProPublica for failing to properly air his lucrative industry ties.

His replacement, who now will be in charge of MSK’s cutting-edge research work as well as the cancer care delivered by hundreds of practitioners, is Lisa M. DeAngelis. DeAngelis had been chair of the neurology department and co-founder of MSK’s brain tumor center and was moved in to the acting CMO role in the wake of Baselga’s departure.

Penn team adapts CAR-T tech, reengi­neer­ing mouse cells to treat car­diac fi­bro­sis

After establishing itself as one of the pioneer research centers in the world for CAR-T cancer therapies, creating new attack vehicles to eradicate cancer cells, a team at Penn Medicine has begun the tricky transition of using the basic technology for heart repair work.

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Tal Zaks. Moderna

The mR­NA uni­corn Mod­er­na has more ear­ly-stage hu­man da­ta it wants to show off — reach­ing new peaks in prov­ing the po­ten­tial

The whole messenger RNA field has attracted billions of dollars in public and private investor cash gambled on the prospect of getting in on the ground floor. And this morning Boston-based Moderna, one of the leaders in the field, wants to show off a few more of the cards it has to play to prove to you that they’re really in the game.

The whole hand, of course, has yet to be dealt. And there’s no telling who gets to walk with a share of the pot. But any cards on display at this point — especially after being accused of keeping its deck under lock and key — will attract plenty of attention from some very wary, and wired, observers.

“In terms of the complexity and unmet need,” says Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer, “this is peak for what we’ve accomplished.”

Moderna has two Phase I studies it wants to talk about now.

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It's not per­fect, but it's a good start: FDA pan­elists large­ly en­dorse Aim­mune's peanut al­ler­gy ther­a­py

Two days after a fairly benign review from FDA staff, an independent panel of experts largely endorsed the efficacy and safety of Aimmune’s peanut allergy therapy, laying the groundwork for approval with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS).

Traditionally, peanut allergies are managed by avoidance, but the threat of accidental exposure cannot be nullified. Some allergists have devised a way to dose patients off-label with peanut protein derived from supermarket products to wean them off their allergies. But the idea behind Aimmune’s product was to standardize the peanut protein, and track the process of desensitization — so when accidental exposure in the real world invariably occurs, patients are less likely to experience a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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Rit­ter bombs fi­nal PhI­II for sole lac­tose in­tol­er­ance drug — shares plum­met

More than two years ago Ritter Pharmaceuticals managed to find enough silver lining in its Phase IIb/III study — after missing the top-line mark — to propel its lactose intolerance toward a confirmatory trial. But as it turned out, the enthusiasm only set the biotech and its investors up to be sorely disappointed.

This time around there’s little left to salvage. Not only did RP-G28 fail to beat placebo in reducing lactose intolerance symptoms, patients in the treatment group actually averaged a smaller improvement. On a composite score measuring symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, patients given the drug had a mean reduction of 3.159 while the placebo cohort saw a 3.420 drop on average (one-sided p-value = 0.0106).

Ear­ly snap­shot of Ad­verum's eye gene ther­a­py sparks con­cern about vi­sion loss

An early-stage update on Adverum Biotechnologies’ intravitreal gene therapy has triggered investor concern, after patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) saw their vision deteriorate, despite signs that the treatment is improving retinal anatomy.

Adverum, on Wednesday, unveiled 24-week data from the OPTIC trial of its experimental therapy, ADVM-022, in six patients who have been administered with one dose of the therapy. On average, patients in the trial had severe disease with an average of 6.2 anti-VEGF injections in the eight months prior to screening and an average annualized injection frequency of 9.3 injections.

Alex Ar­faei trades his an­a­lyst's post for a new role as biotech VC; Sanofi vet heads to Vi­for

Too often, Alex Arfaei arrived too late. 

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets, he’d meet with biotech or pharmaceutical heads for their IPO or secondary funding and his brain, trained on a biology degree and six years at Merck and Endo, would spring with questions: Why this biomarker? Why this design? Why not this endpoint? Not that he could do anything about it. These execs were coming for clinical money; their decisions had been made and finalized long ago.