BeiGene inks $60M licensing, research pacts with Zymeworks; Merck, AbbVie, Amgen back neuro upstart

→ The savvy dealmakers at Zymeworks $ZYME have scored another heavyweight partner as BeiGene signs on for regional rights to two of its early-stage assets and the opportunity to develop three more on its antibody platforms.

Between two licensing deals, the Chinese cancer drugmaker $BGNE is paying $60 million in cash and dedicating up to $1.09 billion collectable at various stops of the long development and commercialization path.

The asset collaboration agreement covers ZW25, a bispecific targeting HER2, and ZW49, which has the same antibody framework but carries a cytotoxic payload meant for patients who have more progressed or refractory cancers. BeiGene is picking up the clinical work for both drugs in China as part of the duo’s global development efforts, while claiming rights to them in the rest of Asia (except Japan), Australia and New Zealand. The breakdown for the deal is $40 million upfront and $390 million in milestones.

For the research pact, Zymeworks is opening up access to its bispecific and immunomodulatory platforms in exchange for $20 million plus $702 million in potential payments.

→ Neuro-focused Rheostat Therapeutics has raised $23 million in Series A round of funding, led by MRLV, a venture capital group within Merck $MRK, and AbbVie Ventures, the strategic investment arm of AbbVie $ABBV. It also included the participation of other big names such as Amgen Ventures, the VC arm of Amgen $AMGN, as well as Alexandria Venture Investments and the Mayo Clinic.

Evelo Biosciences $EVLO is initiating a Phase I/II trial evaluating a combination of its monoclonal microbial product and Keytruda. EDP1503 is designed to activate multiple immune pathways in a way that the company says is potentially synergistic with the PD-1 star. The single-arm trial is slated to begin in the first half of 2019 with three groups of patients: those with microsatellite stable colorectal cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, and with multiple tumor types who have relapsed on prior PD-1/L1 inhibitor treatment.

Novartis-backed Altimmune has tapped Vipin Garg to succeed outgoing president and CEO Bill Enright, entrusting him with growing the vaccine pipeline and exploring partnerships. Between the helms of Neos Therapeutics and Tranzyme Pharma, Garg has run both discovery-stage and commercial operations.

→ Privately-held BioClin Therapeutics, focused on its experimental cancer drug vofatamab, is set to change its name to Rainier Therapeutics as itspreps to test the drug in a late-stage trial involving bladder cancer patients. “Our new logo incorporates the awe-inspiring image of a mountain,” the California-based company said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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