Bel­gian biotech found­ed by Uni­ver­si­ty of Tori­no team nabs $23.5 mil­lion in Se­ries A round

Hav­ing spent more than two decades re­search­ing bi­ol­o­gy of the he­pa­to­cyte growth fac­tor (HGF), Pao­lo Michieli and his team at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tori­no, Italy forged a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Nether­lands-based biotech Argenyx to cre­ate AgomAb Ther­a­peu­tics in 2017. On Wednes­day, the Bel­gian firm scored a €21 mil­lion (about $23.5 mil­lion) in­jec­tion for its slate of undis­closed pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams.

Tim Knot­nerus

HGF — a pro­tein se­cret­ed by mes­enchy­mal cells — has long been stud­ied for its role in cell pro­lif­er­a­tion, sur­vival, motil­i­ty and dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. It is un­der­stood to pro­mote wound heal­ing as well as tis­sue re­gen­er­a­tion in a num­ber of pre­clin­i­cal mod­els, chief Tim Knot­nerus said in an in­ter­view with End­points News.

But at­tempts to har­ness the pro­tein have been chal­lenged by its poor drug-like prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing sta­bil­i­ty and half life, as well as man­u­fac­tur­ing ob­sta­cles. By us­ing Argenyx’s tech plat­form, “we can over­come these…prop­er­ties by ac­tu­al­ly de­vel­op­ing an an­ti­body that mim­ics HGF,” Knot­nerus said.

Pao­lo Michieli

“The lux­u­ry here, but al­so the chal­lenge of this is that we have many in­ter­est­ing ther­a­peu­tic sig­nals in a va­ri­ety of pre­clin­i­cal mod­els — fi­brot­ic dis­eases, but al­so au­toim­mune dis­eases, re­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases. We have not se­lect­ed a lead in­di­ca­tion.”

AgomAb will use the mon­ey to shep­herd its an­ti­bod­ies to the IND stage, added Knot­nerus, elect­ing to not pro­vide any more de­tail.

Michieli, who has pre­vi­ous­ly worked for the NCI in Bethes­da, Mary­land, serves as AgomAb’s chief sci­en­tif­ic of­fi­cer. Mean­while, Ar­genx co-founder Torsten Dreier has joined AgomAb as chief de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer.

Im­age: Shut­ter­stock

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Bris­tol My­ers Squib­b's just-launched MS drug Zeposia makes the cut in key ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis tri­al

In March, Zeposia became the third oral S1P modulator to secure US approval for multiple sclerosis. Now, the drug has succeeded in a key ulcerative colitis study.

The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Federico Mingozzi (Spark)

Spark touts an­i­mal da­ta for a so­lu­tion to AAV gene ther­a­py's an­ti­body prob­lem

Among all the limitations of using an adeno-associated virus as a vector to deliver a gene — still the most established modality in gene therapy given years of trial and error and finally success — the presence of neutralizing antibodies, whether pre-existing or induced, looms large.

“When I think about the immune responses in AAV, I try to sort of layer them,” Federico Mingozzi, the CSO at Spark Therapeutics, told Endpoints News. “The antibody is the first layer. It’s the first block that you find when you’re trying to do gene transfer.”

Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but which subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).