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

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

Pfiz­er, Sarep­ta and two oth­ers sug­gest Duchenne drug safe­ty is­sues tied to "class ef­fect"

Since the first experimental Duchenne gene therapy programs came about, the space has proven rife with safety issues and patient deaths in clinical trials. Pfizer and three biotechs now think they’ve found a reason why.

The four companies suggested there may be a “class effect” causing the adverse events in Duchenne gene therapies, they wrote in a new study. They specifically highlighted how side effects in five patients across three trials, who all showed muscle weakness with cardiac involvement, were “strikingly similar.”

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Pre­sent­ing a live End­points News event: Man­ag­ing a biotech in tur­bu­lent times

Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of savvy, experienced execs coming together to run startups.

And in these times, they are being tested as never before.

Biotech is going through quite a rough patch right now. For 2 years, practically anyone with a decent resume and some half-baked ideas on biotech could start a company and get it funded. The pandemic made it easy in many ways to pull off an IPO, with traditional road shows shut down in exchange for a series of quick Zoom meetings. Generalist investors flocked as the numbers raised soared into the stratosphere.

Locus CEO and co-founder Paul Garofolo

Lo­cus pulls in a mod­est Se­ries B as it at­tempts to em­u­late on­col­o­gy's pre­ci­sion med­i­cine mod­el in an­tibac­te­ri­als

Despite a significant bear market affecting the public biotech sector, private companies are still managing to pull in VC-backed funding rounds. The latest such round comes out of North Carolina’s research triangle for a precision antibacterial drug maker.

Locus Biosciences closed a $35 million Series B round Wednesday morning, featuring some notable names including Artis Ventures, Tencent Holdings, Viking Global Investors, Discovery Innovations and Johnson and Johnson Innovation, the investment arm of J&J. CEO and co-founder Paul Garofolo told Endpoints News that the funds will be used to advance the company’s lead candidate, dubbed LBP-EC01.

Martin Shkreli (Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch/IPX)

In­fa­mous biotech ex­ec Mar­tin Shkre­li gets out of prison, hits the street

Martin Shkreli, the infamous biotech CEO who made headlines for his jeering assault on a legion of critics in and out of Congress, is back on the streets after 4 years inside a federal penitentiary.

Shkreli’s attorney put out a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the “pharma bro” had been transferred to a halfway house in New York with a few more months to go under federal custody, slated to end September 14. Attorney Benjamin Brafman acknowledged the release and vowed that he and Shkreli are keeping quiet.

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De­spite fed­er­al ef­forts to di­ver­si­fy clin­i­cal tri­als, progress re­mains 'stag­nan­t' — re­port

While calls to diversify clinical trials have grown louder in recent years — gaining support from federal agencies such as the FDA and NIH — progress has largely stalled, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Swaths of patients in racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as LGBTQIA+, pregnant and older adult populations continue to be left out of clinical trials. While some advances have been made in the last 30 years — women now account for roughly half of clinical trial participants — growth in other areas remains stagnant, according to the report, which was mandated by Congress and sponsored by the NIH.

Paul Chaplin, Bavarian Nordic president and CEO

Bavar­i­an Nordic se­cures BAR­DA con­tract for small­pox vac­cine

It seems that smallpox vaccination production is weighing on the mind of the US government. And manufacturer Bavarian Nordic is the latest company to benefit.

Just a few days after Emergent, a company that has made government contracts its lifeblood, acquired the exclusive rights to Tembexa from Chimerix, with a $225 million cash payment and an expected BARDA contract, the agency has offered a contract for smallpox vaccine production.

Frank Pallone (D-NJ), House Energy and Commerce Committee chair (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP Images)

House com­mit­tee unan­i­mous­ly ad­vances FDA user fee leg­is­la­tion with ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval tweaks

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday offered a rare show of bipartisan support for a bill that would provide the FDA with user fees for the next five years.

The committee voted 55-0 to advance the quinquennial user fee bill to the full House floor, which if approved, will allow the FDA to use biopharma funds to hire new reviewers, and hit new marks as outlined in the user fee deals that the FDA and biopharma companies forged over the past several years.

Lina Khan, FTC chair (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

New FTC com­mis­sion­er could turn the tide for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to PBMs

The Senate last week voted along party lines, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaker, to make President Biden appointee Alvaro Bedoya the deciding vote on a split 2-2 Federal Trade Commission.

The addition of Bedoya to the FTC could not only spell more trouble for biopharma M&A activity, as he may align with his Democrat partners to break the FTC ties, but it may also mean that FTC Chair Lina Khan has what she needs to move forward on a study around the pharma middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers.