Bay­er en­lists Arv­inas on two-pronged pro­tein degra­da­tion ef­fort, for­ay­ing in­to agtech

Arv­inas has inked an­oth­er Big Phar­ma part­ner­ship to get their pro­tein degra­da­tion en­gines revving — for both hu­mans and crops.

All told, the Ger­man con­glom­er­ate is wa­ger­ing $115 mil­lion on the po­ten­tial of Arv­inas’ tech plat­form, which us­es an E3 lig­ase to tag tar­get pro­teins with an ubiq­ui­tin, flush­ing these dis­ease cul­prits down the cell’s nat­ur­al “garbage dis­pos­al.” And Bay­er is in for the whole pack­age, with a col­lab­o­ra­tion, an eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment and a joint ven­ture in play.

A har­bin­ger of the pro­tein degra­da­tion space, Arv­inas comes of age as peers at C4 Ther­a­peu­tics and Kymera al­so gains pop­u­lar­i­ty among the likes of Bio­gen, Ver­tex and Glax­o­SmithK­line. Com­pared to the tra­di­tion­al in­hi­bi­tion ap­proach, get­ting rid of prob­lem­at­ic pro­teins promis­es to be a much more durable so­lu­tion for dis­eases like can­cer.

Jo­erg Moeller Linkedin

“Be­cause PRO­TACs don’t in­hib­it the tar­get pro­tein’s en­zy­mat­ic ac­tiv­i­ty, but bind their tar­gets with high se­lec­tiv­i­ty, it may be pos­si­ble to re­tool pre­vi­ous­ly in­ef­fec­tive in­hibitor mol­e­cules as PRO­TACs for next-gen­er­a­tion med­i­cines for pa­tients,” Jo­erg Moeller, Bay­er’s head of R&D, said in a state­ment.

On the ther­a­peu­tic side, Bay­er’s to­tal com­mit­ment — up­front, R&D sup­port plus eq­ui­ty — amounts to $60 mil­lion. It gets them the rights to nov­el lead struc­tures Arv­inas gen­er­ates in the process but doesn’t cov­er the ad­di­tion­al $685 mil­lion in po­ten­tial mile­stone pay­ments.

The pact will span car­dio­vas­cu­lar, on­co­log­i­cal and gy­ne­co­log­i­cal dis­eases.

The oth­er $55 mil­lion in the deal goes, in the course of six years, to a joint ven­ture set up to ex­plore how Arv­inas’ tech­nol­o­gy can tack­le the weeds, in­sects or dis­eases en­dem­ic in agri­cul­ture. Where pre­vi­ous crop pro­tec­tion ef­forts have suc­cumbed to re­sis­tance, pro­tein degra­da­tion may be able to re­vive them, the part­ners said.

John Hous­ton Arv­inas

“As the first com­pa­ny found­ed to ex­plore tar­get­ed pro­tein degra­da­tion, we’ve been ex­cit­ed about the po­ten­tial to im­prove the lives of pa­tients since our in­cep­tion,” said Arv­inas CEO John Hous­ton. “This col­lab­o­ra­tion en­ables us not on­ly to ex­pand our plat­form in­to new ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas, but al­so be­gins a new jour­ney in ap­ply­ing our ap­proach to agri­cul­ture.”

The cash ex­changed trumps pre­vi­ous part­ner­ships, in which Genen­tech and Pfiz­er paid less to get dis­cov­ery al­liances start­ed but pledged biobucks, great­ly rais­ing Arv­inas’ pro­file be­fore it even got in­to the clin­ic. Its lead ther­a­py in prostate can­cer is now in Phase I tri­als.


Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Covid-19 man­u­fac­tur­ing roundup: Mary­land looks to grow biotech ca­pac­i­ty with $400M check; Rus­sia lands sec­ond Sput­nik V part­ner this week

A Maryland real estate project has added three new biotech-focused manufacturing and research buildings to an office park to keep up with demand created by the pandemic, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The Milestone Business Park — located off of I-270 in Germantown, MD — will see the new buildings and a total of 532,000 square feet as the campus rebrands to Milestone Innovation Park.

Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Bay­er plots a ma­jor facelift at Berke­ley cam­pus, un­cork­ing a 30-year, $1.2B plan to dri­ve cell and gene ther­a­pies

Bayer first set roots in Berkeley back in 1974, when it was still operating as Miles Labs. The site has pumped out three hemophilia A treatments for distribution worldwide; but now, as the pharma continues its cell and gene therapy push, it has something bigger in mind.

Bayer is planning a 30-year revamp at the campus, which includes 918,000 square feet in new buildings and double the jobs, according to a report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

LLS backs 5 new can­cer drug projects with up to $50M; Trodelvy con­tin­ues to im­press with more TNBC da­ta

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has tapped 5 new early-stage projects to back with up to $10 million each in fresh investments. The 5 biotechs are:

— Caribou, headed by Rachel Haurwitz and co-founded by Jennifer Doudna, is working on next-gen, off-the-shelf CAR-Ts to replace the patient-derived cells now in use.

— The LLS supported NexImmune’s IPO, helping fund its work on nanoparticles that can gin up an immune response directed at cancer cells. The biotech has 2 projects now in Phase I trials.

Jenny Rooke (Genoa Ventures)

Ear­ly Zymer­gen in­vestor Jen­ny Rooke re­flects on 'chimeras' in biotech, what it takes to spot a $500M gem

When Jenny Rooke first heard of Zymergen back in 2014, she knew she was looking at something different and exciting. The Emeryville, CA biotech held the promise of blending biology and technology to solve a huge unmet need for cost-effective chemicals — of all things — and a stellar founding team to boot.

But back then, West Coast venture capitalists didn’t see in Zymergen the one thing they were looking for in a winning biotech: therapeutic potential. Rooke, however, saw an opportunity and made her bets. Seven years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.

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