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

Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos (via Getty Images)

With ad­u­canum­ab caught on a cliff, Bio­gen’s Michel Vounatsos bets bil­lions on an­oth­er high-risk neu­ro play

With its FDA pitch on the Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab hanging perilously close to disaster, Biogen is rolling the dice on a $3.1 billion deal that brings in commercial rights to one of the other spotlight neuro drugs in late-stage development — after it already failed its first Phase III.

The big biotech has turned to Sage Therapeutics for its latest deal, close to a year after the crushing failure of Sage-217, now dubbed zuranolone, in the MOUNTAIN study.

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UP­DAT­ED: As­traZeneca, Ox­ford on the de­fen­sive as skep­tics dis­miss 70% av­er­age ef­fi­ca­cy for Covid-19 vac­cine

On the third straight Monday that the world wakes up to positive vaccine news, AstraZeneca and Oxford are declaring a new Phase III milestone in the fight against the pandemic. Not everyone is convinced they will play a big part, though.

With an average efficacy of 70%, the headline number struck analysts as less impressive than the 95% and 94.5% protection that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have boasted in the past two weeks, respectively. But the British partners say they have several other bright spots going for their candidate. One of the two dosing regimens tested in Phase III showed a better profile, bringing efficacy up to 90%; the adenovirus vector-based vaccine requires minimal refrigeration, which may mean easier distribution; and AstraZeneca has pledged to sell it at a fraction of the price that the other two vaccine developers are charging.

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Covid-19 roundup: Eu­rope pur­chas­es 80M dos­es of Mod­er­na's vac­cine; CO­V­AXX se­cures $2.8B in emerg­ing mar­ket pre-or­ders

With the announcement of its vaccine efficacy data last week, Moderna is starting to line up customers for its Covid-19 mRNA jabs.

The Massachusetts-based biotech announced Wednesday it has agreed to sell an initial round of 80 million doses to the European Commission, with the option to double the amount to 160 million. Once the member states rubber stamp the approval, the deal will be finalized.

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Jason Kelly, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO (Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Af­ter Ko­dak de­ba­cle, US lends $1.1B to a syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy com­pa­ny and their big Covid-19, mR­NA plans

In mid-August, as Kodak’s $765 million government-backed push into drug manufacturing slowly fell apart in national headlines, Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly got a message from his company’s government liaison: HHS wanted to know if they, too, might want a loan.

The government’s decision to lend Kodak three quarters of a billion dollars raised eyebrows because Kodak had never made drugs before. But Ginkgo, while not a manufacturing company, had spent the last decade refining new ways to produce materials inside cells and building automated facilities across Boston.

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The ad­u­canum­ab co­nun­drum: The PhI­II failed a clear reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dard, but no one is cer­tain what that means any­more at the FDA

Eighteen days ago, virtually all of the outside experts on an FDA adcomm got together to mug the agency’s Billy Dunn and the Biogen team when they presented their upbeat assessment on aducanumab. But here we are, more than 2 weeks later, and the ongoing debate over that Alzheimer’s drug’s fate continues unabated.

Instead of simply ruling out any chance of an approval, the logical conclusion based on what we heard during that session, a series of questionable approvals that preceded the controversy over the agency’s recent EUA decisions has come back to haunt the FDA, where the power of precedent is leaving an opening some experts believe can still be exploited by the big biotech.

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John Maraganore, Alnylam CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Al­ny­lam gets the green light from the FDA for drug #3 — and CEO John Maraganore is ready to roll

Score another early win at the FDA for Alnylam.

The FDA put out word today that the agency has approved its third drug, lumasiran, for primary hyperoxaluria type 1, better known as PH1. The news comes just 4 days after the European Commission took the lead in offering a green light.

An ultra rare genetic condition, Alnylam CEO John Maraganore says there are only some 1,000 to 1,700 patients in the US and Europe at any particular point. The patients, mostly kids, suffer from an overproduction of oxalate in the liver that spurs the development of kidney stones, right through to end stage kidney disease.

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Bob Nelsen (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Bob Nelsen rais­es $800M and re­cruits a star-stud­ded board to build the 'Fox­con­n' of biotech

Bob Nelsen spent his pandemic spring in his Seattle home, talking on the phone with Luciana Borio, the scientist who used to run pandemic preparedness on the National Security Council, and fuming with her about the dire state of American manufacturing.

Companies were rushing to develop vaccines and antibodies for the new virus, but even if they succeeded, there was no immediate supply chain or infrastructure to mass-produce them in a way that could make a dent in the outbreak.

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Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO (University of British Columbia)

From a pair of Air Jor­dans to a $200M-plus IPO, Carl Hansen is craft­ing an overnight R&D for­tune fu­eled by Covid-19

Back in the summer of 2019, Carl Hansen left his post as a professor at the University of British Columbia to go full time as the CEO at a low-profile antibody shop he had founded called AbCellera.

As biotech CEOs go, even after a fundraise Hansen wasn’t paid a whole heck of a lot. He ended up earning right at $250,000 for the year. His compensation package included a loan — which he later paid back — and a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. His newly-hired CFO, Andrew Booth, got a sweeter pay packet than that — which included his own pair of Air Jordans.

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In fi­nal days at Mer­ck, Roger Perl­mut­ter bets big on a lit­tle-known Covid-19 treat­ment

Roger Perlmutter is spending his last days at Merck, well, spending.

Two weeks after snapping up the antibody-drug conjugate biotech VelosBio for $2.75 billion, Merck announced today that it had purchased OncoImmune and its experimental Covid-19 drug for $425 million. The drug, known as CD24Fc, appeared to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death in severe Covid-19 patients by 50% in a 203-person Phase III trial, OncoImmune said in September.

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