Ahmed Hamdy, Vincerx CEO

Bear mar­ket hits an­oth­er small cap biotech as Ahmed Hamdy's Vin­cerx cuts a third of staff

The biotech bear mar­ket con­tin­ues to put pres­sure on small and mid-cap com­pa­nies, with an­oth­er start­up un­der­go­ing a shift.

Can­cer-fo­cused biotech Vin­cerx re­vealed it would lay off 33% of its staff Mon­day af­ter­noon as part of an ef­fort to get its lead pro­gram through two Phase I stud­ies. The move comes a lit­tle less than two years af­ter Vin­cerx went pub­lic via a SPAC, and af­ter its stock $VINC has fall­en more than 80% in 2022.

“Re­duc­ing our staff was not an easy de­ci­sion,” CEO Ahmed Hamdy said in a state­ment. “It was the tremen­dous ef­fort of our Vin­cerx col­leagues that al­lowed us to ex­e­cute ef­fi­cient­ly, de­spite the ex­treme pres­sures of the pan­dem­ic.”

Vin­cerx joins the long and still-grow­ing list of biotechs that have been forced to save mon­ey through lay­offs or oth­er cost-cut­ting re­or­ga­ni­za­tions this year, as the mar­ket con­tin­ues its bear­ish run. Al­ready this month, the in­dus­try has seen Prax­is, Amarin, Ather­sys, Centes­sa and Atre­ca re­duce their head­counts or an­nounce plans to do so, and Pas­sage Bio’s CEO de­part­ed.

Some cash has been ac­ces­si­ble for biotechs putting out pos­i­tive clin­i­cal da­ta — in­clud­ing a 24-hour pe­ri­od in March that saw a trio of com­pa­nies raise $1.5 bil­lion — but for those yet to reach that mile­stone, fund­ing re­mains hard to come by.

For Vin­cerx, the goal is to have enough mon­ey to run two clin­i­cal stud­ies for its lead drug, a small mol­e­cule de­signed to in­hib­it P-TEFb phos­pho­ry­la­tion of RNA poly­merase II (RNAPII)/CDK9. The pro­gram, known as VIP152, was in-li­censed from Bay­er and is cur­rent­ly be­ing stud­ied in dou­ble-hit dif­fuse large B-cell lym­phoma and high-risk chron­ic lym­pho­cyt­ic leukemia as a monother­a­py.

Mon­day’s cash-sav­ing mea­sures are al­so aimed at get­ting INDs through for three pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams: VIP236 for sol­id tu­mors in the sec­ond half of this year; VIP943, an an­ti-CD123 mol­e­cule in the sec­ond half of 2023; and VIP924, an an­ti-CX­CR5 com­pound in 2024.

Vin­cerx got start­ed af­ter Hamdy, one of the key co-founders at Ac­er­ta, left his for­mer digs to launch his new project out of stealth in Sep­tem­ber 2020. He im­me­di­ate­ly made the quick jump to Nas­daq through the SPAC route at a time when the blank check mar­ket was heat­ing up.

Hamdy’s SPAC part­ner, LifeSci Part­ners, had launched mul­ti­ple shell com­pa­nies to get biotechs on­to Nas­daq quick­ly. Its sec­ond SPAC com­plet­ed its merg­er with Sci­ence 37 last Oc­to­ber, while the third blank check ve­hi­cle con­tin­ues to search for a part­ner.

Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Scoop: Roche scraps one of two schiz­o­phre­nia PhII tri­als af­ter fail­ing the pri­ma­ry end­point

Roche has terminated one of two Phase II trials testing its drug ralmitaront in patients with schizophrenia, the Big Pharma confirmed to Endpoints News.

The study was terminated last month, according to a June 22 update to the registry on clinicaltrials.gov. Begun in September 2020, the trial was looking at ralmitaront in patients with acute schizophrenia. The trial enrolled 286 patients out of an originally planned 308.

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Pearl Huang, Dunad Therapeutics CEO (Ken Richardson, PR Newswire)

Long­time biotech leader Pearl Huang takes the reins as CEO of No­var­tis-backed up­start

It has only been a few months since Pearl Huang exited the top seat at Cygnal Therapeutics, but now she’s back at the helm of another biotech.

After taking a few months off — passing an exam in that time to get her captain’s license from the US Coast Guard — she’s been named CEO of Dunad Therapeutics, a biotech focused on developing a small molecule covalent therapies that was founded in 2020. Huang told Endpoints News that two factors attracted her to going back to the c-suite: the company’s technology and its co-founders.

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Years af­ter link­ing arms with Bris­tol My­ers and both Mer­cks, Sutro finds its lat­est part­ner in Tokyo

Astellas and Sutro Biopharma are linking arms on a new field of antibody-drug conjugates that they hope will improve upon existing cancer immunotherapies.

The Tokyo pharma will dole out $90 million in cash for the collaboration, the companies said Monday afternoon. That upfront payment will extend the South San Francisco biotech’s runway from late 2023 into the first half of 2024, Cowen analysts noted.

Matt Gline, Roivant CEO (John Sciulli/Getty Images for GLG)

Roivant chops sick­le cell gene ther­a­py, der­ma­tol­ogy drugs to fo­cus on 'high­er val­ue pro­ject­s'

Roivant is sweeping a suite of drugs, including a gene therapy for sickle cell disease already in the clinic, out of its pipeline.

Six programs from four of its “vants” are being wound down as part of “a company-wide cost optimization and pipeline reprioritization initiative to reduce our expected operating expenses and prioritize our capital resources.”

When reached by Endpoints News, a spokesperson said, “We don’t anticipate a material reduction in headcount but we will likely reassign some folks to higher value projects as part of winding down specific programs.”

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Laurence Reid, Decibel CEO

Still in pre­clin­i­cal test­ing for ear gene ther­a­pies, Deci­bel touts small snap­shot of chemo-in­duced hear­ing loss drug

Though Decibel Therapeutics has largely pivoted toward gene therapies for the inner ear, its lead clinical candidate simply aims to protect cancer patients from chemotherapy-induced hearing loss. On Tuesday, the biotech presented its first efficacy data for the program, and execs like what they see.

Decibel reported interim results from a Phase Ib study showing the experimental drug, dubbed DB-020, largely protected a small group of patients from losing their hearing. Researchers used a particularly unique study design, administering the compound in one of each patients’ ears before they received cisplatin chemotherapy and placebo in the other.

Ben Zimmer, Priovant CEO

Roivant un­veils lat­est spin­out as Pfiz­er en­trusts JAK1/TYK2 to Pri­o­vant

In November, Pfizer disclosed it’s spun out the Phase II dual JAK1/TYK2 inhibitor to a startup formed in collaboration with an unnamed, experienced partner.

We now know who the partner is. And as Pfizer and Roivant officially take the wraps off Priovant Therapeutics, the companies reveal that they have started two registrational trials of the drug, brepocitinib, as part of a broader plan to develop a big, first-in-class franchise spanning multiple orphan and specialty autoimmune diseases.