Ken Song (RayzeBio)

Bare­ly two months af­ter un­veil­ing a new breed of ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, Rayze­Bio brings to­tal haul to $150M

Just be­fore Ver­sant and ven­Bio of­fi­cial­ly took the wraps off Rayze­Bio with $45 mil­lion in launch mon­ey, Ken Song reached out to a few oth­er in­vestors “just to give them an overview.”

He wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly look­ing to raise mon­ey im­me­di­ate­ly, the CEO said. Where­as the Se­ries A came to­geth­er most­ly around the con­cept of a new ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny, Rayze­Bio now had more de­tails and progress around its pipeline to il­lus­trate just what its plat­form can do. But the group — com­pris­ing some firms that were known for their crossover and pub­lic port­fo­lios — be­came so en­thused that, bare­ly two months lat­er, he has $105 mil­lion more to work with.

The plan is still to have at least one de­vel­op­ment can­di­date by the sec­ond half of 2021 and start the first clin­i­cal tri­als with­in a year of that.

“We can now def­i­nite­ly pros­e­cute in par­al­lel all of our pro­grams with­out need­ing to make re­source al­lo­ca­tion de­ci­sions due to lack of cap­i­tal,” he told End­points News.

Deb­o­rah Charych

With 13 now on the pay­roll and more set to join, Song al­so wooed Er­ic Bischoff, a col­league from his Metacrine days, to join as SVP of de­vel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions. Gary Li, the new­ly ap­point­ed head of bi­ol­o­gy and trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine, is tasked with get­ting the com­pounds ready for IND-en­abling stud­ies. Both join Song and Deb­o­rah Charych, co-founder and chief tech­nol­o­gy of­fi­cer, on the se­nior team.

RayzBio’s pro­grams, in­clud­ing the most ad­vanced one in mid-stage lead op­ti­miza­tion, have two parts: There are the pep­tide binders for a host of sol­id tu­mor tar­gets, iden­ti­fied in screen­ing by its Japan­ese part­ners at Pep­tiDream. These are then ra­di­o­la­beled with Ac­tini­um-225 with the in­tent of send­ing the pow­er­ful ra­dioiso­tope straight, and on­ly, to can­cer cells.

The biotech’s de­ci­sion to make be­spoke binders rather than re­pur­pose mol­e­cules off-the-shelf proved ap­peal­ing to in­vestors, Song said. The VCs al­so liked that it had 7 pro­grams, some of which would be first-in-class ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts if they make it.

“Be­cause if you look at most oth­er ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that are out there — I’m ex­clud­ing No­var­tis, which is a large phar­ma — but if you look at pret­ty much every­one out there, most com­pa­nies are pur­su­ing maybe 1 or 2 pro­grams at most. And many of those pro­grams tend to be sort of the same tried and true tar­gets that have al­ready been pur­sued in ra­dio­phar­ma.”

A Ven­rock fund fo­cused on pub­licly held and late-stage pri­vate plays led the round, with Or­biMed, Red­mile Group, Viking Glob­al In­vestors, Lo­gos Cap­i­tal, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, LifeSci Ven­ture Part­ners, Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments and oth­ers join­ing as new in­vestors. Ver­sant and ven­Bio re­turned for more, along­side Sam­sara Bio­Cap­i­tal.

Bong Koh

Bong Koh from Ven­rock Health­care Cap­i­tal Part­ners is join­ing the board.

The new cash in­fu­sion will al­so fund an ex­pan­sion of the San Diego head­quar­ters as well as stud­ies in­to Rayze­Bio’s man­u­fac­tur­ing op­tions. Mak­ing ra­dioiso­tope-drug con­ju­gates, af­ter all, is a much dif­fer­ent process than typ­i­cal ther­a­pies, de­spite dra­mat­ic ad­vances in the abil­i­ty for ear­ly-stage de­vel­op­ers to se­cure ther­a­peu­tic ra­dioiso­topes.

For now, it’s go­ing with a cen­tral­ized mod­el re­ly­ing on key part­ners. But it could bring more of it in-house in the fu­ture — or try some­thing else.

“I would say every­thing is still on the ta­ble in terms of de­ter­min­ing what is the best man­u­fac­tur­ing strat­e­gy to take for­ward,” Song said.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.