Bid­ding to be the go-to ge­nomics and da­ta part­ner for drug de­vel­op­ment, Sophia Ge­net­ics rais­es $100M

Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long has spent the last decade go­ing from mi­nor fund­ing round to mi­nor fund­ing round for his start­up, Sophia Ge­net­ics, adding hos­pi­tals in the UK, US, and Latin Amer­i­ca and ex­pand­ing the plat­form to han­dle more and more da­ta. Now, Cam­b­long says, the com­pa­ny has spread far enough and has now raised plen­ty of cash to clear one of its last hur­dles.

In the sixth and largest fund­ing round in their 9-year his­to­ry, Sophia Ge­net­ics has raised $110 mil­lion to push for­ward its AI-based plat­form for ge­net­ic med­i­cine with a re­newed fo­cus on tak­ing their es­tab­lished in­fra­struc­ture and us­ing it help bio­phar­ma col­lect ev­i­dence and de­sign tri­als. The round was led the Is­raeli firm aMoon and the Japan­ese firm Hi­tachi Ven­tures.

Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long

The goal is “to be in the po­si­tion of Google,” Cam­b­long told End­points. “You see many com­pa­nies are build­ing tech­nolo­gies for bio­phar­ma and then try­ing to de­ploy them first in the US and then in Eu­rope, right? And that’s some­thing we’re do­ing com­plete­ly in re­verse.”

Sophia’s pitch is one biotechs and Big Phar­ma re­ceive of­ten these days: There’s all this new ge­net­ic in­for­ma­tion out there and all these tech­nolo­gies to track how pa­tients do in­side and out­side clin­i­cal tri­als; we have the plat­form that can ag­gre­gate all that da­ta and spit out an­swers on every­thing from how your drug is per­form­ing to how to best de­sign those tri­als.

Ae­tion, one of the hottest US star­tups, at­tract­ed for­mer FDA chief Scott Got­tlieb to its board and scored part­ner­ships with the agency on the promis­ing of us­ing re­al-world da­ta to trans­form drug de­vel­op­ment. Chica­go-based Tem­pus, which al­so added Got­tlieb to its board last year, has raised over $600 mil­lion and racked up a string of high-pro­file aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner­ships on a promise more di­rect­ly sim­i­lar to Sophia Ge­net­ics.

Cam­b­long, though, says that it has an ad­van­tage: the size it’s slow­ly ac­crued over the last 9 years. The com­pa­ny’s list­ed 1,000 hos­pi­tals as al­ready us­ing their plat­form to track pa­tients, sev­er­al hun­dred of them in the US, and claims to screen 17,000 genomes per day. Be­cause they have al­ready gath­ered that much da­ta and en­tered that many hos­pi­tals, they say they can pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion than oth­er com­pa­nies might. And al­though they’ve long been fo­cused pri­mar­i­ly on ge­nom­ic da­ta — hence the name — they say they can al­so use this in­fra­struc­ture to gath­er re­al-world da­ta to show whether a drug is per­form­ing bet­ter than an­oth­er post-ap­proval.

“Our plat­form is the most used world­wide,” he said. “Now that we’re in the po­si­tion we are, we can lever­age on these as­sets.”

Still, Sophia Ge­net­ics is hard­ly alone in boast­ing about size. Tem­pus claims to have the “largest li­brary of clin­i­cal and mol­e­c­u­lar da­ta.” And Cam­b­long ac­knowl­edges the com­pa­ny is still “very new” to bio­phar­ma, hav­ing on­ly launched that branch of the busi­ness last year.

So far they count 10 dif­fer­ent drug de­vel­op­ment part­ners, in­clud­ing CROs, biotechs and Big Phar­ma com­pa­nies. That in­cludes a part­ner­ship with the well-heeled Swiss biotech ADC Ther­a­peu­tics to dis­cov­er bio­mark­ers for their lead an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gate, AD­CT-402, by track­ing free-float­ing DNA in the blood. They’ve helped de­sign 4 dif­fer­ent tri­als, Cam­b­long said.

Cam­b­long is con­fi­dent, though, that plat­forms like his will on­ly grow in im­por­tance, a trend ac­cel­er­at­ed by the pan­dem­ic. A slew of ge­nom­ic and re­al world da­ta com­pa­nies have worked since Jan­u­ary to rapid­ly an­a­lyze im­mune re­spons­es, mon­i­tor coro­n­avirus mu­ta­tions and track what drug pa­tients are re­ceiv­ing and whether those drugs are work­ing. Right now, the com­pa­ny is col­lect­ing vi­ral and pa­tient da­ta in Brazil in a bid to track what they call “Covid-19 dis­ease evo­lu­tion.”

Sophia now has 350 em­ploy­ees spread across of­fices in Switzer­land and Boston. Their goal now is to get the com­pa­ny to $100 mil­lion in an­nu­al rev­enue by 2022, with $20 mil­lion com­ing from bio­phar­ma, Cam­b­long said. In the process, he al­so plans to take the com­pa­ny to Nas­daq.

“For us, the IPO will not be a neg­a­tive event,” he said. “It is re­al­ly in­tend­ed to po­si­tion Sophia as the win­ner in that space glob­al­ly.”

So­cial im­age: Ju­r­gi Cam­b­long, Sophia Ge­net­ics via YouTube

UP­DAT­ED: In a fresh dis­ap­point­ment, Am­gen spot­lights a ma­jor safe­ty is­sue with KRAS com­bo

Amgen had hoped that its latest study matching its landmark KRAS G12C drug Lumakras with checkpoint inhibitors would open up its treatment horizons and expand its commercial potential. Instead, the combo spurred safety issues that blunted efficacy and forced the pharma giant to alter course on its treatment strategy, once again disappointing analysts who have been tracking the drug’s faltering sales and limited therapeutic reach.

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Ad­dress­ing the ‘Ca­pac­i­ty Crunch’ with a Scal­able Plat­form Process Ap­proach

The field of gene therapy has been diligently moving forward over the past several decades to bring potentially life-saving treatments to patients with genetic diseases. In addition to two approved adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapies, there are more than 250 AAV gene therapies in various clinical trial stages.1 AAV vectors remain the most frequently used vector for delivering therapeutic transgenes to target tissues due to their demonstrated and lasting clinical efficacy and extensive safety track record. As AAV therapies advance through clinical trials and into commercialization, many biotech companies are turning to contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to prepare their programs for late-stage clinical and commercial scale manufacturing. Given the scope and scale of the manufacturing needs that will accompany regulatory approvals for these assets, CDMOs continue to expand their capacity to meet the needs of increasing prevalent patient populations. However, despite rapid growth, projected gene therapy manufacturing demands still outpace the collective capacity of the CDMO industry.

A $5B Pfiz­er buy­out? Am­gen, Gilead head­line M&A Thurs­day; Al­ny­lam's AT­TR sweep; An­drew Lo's rare dis­ease quest; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

One of the cool things about adding EndpointsPharma to the daily roster is that my colleagues can now dedicate time to tracking quarterly updates and tuning into calls with Big Pharma companies. Check out their dispatch from the Q2 earnings below.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Justin Kase Conder/AP Images for Amgen)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen chief Brad­way nabs a rare dis­ease play­er in $4B buy­out as the M&A tem­po ac­cel­er­ates

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway is bellying up to the M&A table today, scooping up the newly anointed commercial biotech ChemoCentryx $CCXI and its recently approved rare disease drug for $3.7 billion out of the cash stockpile. The deal comes in at $52 a share — a hefty increase over the $24.11 close yesterday.

Bradway and the Amgen team get a drug called Tavneos (avacopan) in the deal, a complement factor C5a inhibitor OK’d to treat anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis, an autoimmune disease which can be lethal.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron president and CSO (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Alamy)

George Yan­copou­los says he's on the trail of the holy grail: ‘This could rep­re­sent the next break­through for im­munother­a­py’

Two of the most outspoken — and successful — drug developers in biotech say they’ve collected early-stage clinical data that are pointing them down the trail to the holy grail in cancer immunotherapy R&D.

While analysts largely busied themselves today with chronicling the ongoing success of Regeneron’s two big cash cows — Dupixent and Eylea — chief scientist George Yancopoulos and CEO Len Schleifer used the Q2 call to spotlight their early success with a combination of the “homegrown” PSMAxCD28 costimulatory bispecific antibody REGN5678 in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo. The presentation comes just weeks after Regeneron completed a deal to gather all rights to the PD-1 that had been in Sanofi’s hands. And the two top execs are unstinting in their praise of the potential of a whole set of costimulatory pipeline projects which they say may finally deliver the long-awaited next-level approach to broadening the immunotherapy field of drugs.

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(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

US de­clares mon­key­pox a na­tion­al health emer­gency, as new drug­mak­ers con­sid­er en­ter­ing vac­cine race

Rising monkeypox cases have put the US on high alert as it announces a national health emergency, which grants the government more power in its response.

The news comes as Bavarian Nordic continues to fill orders for its Jynneos vaccine and other companies – including Moderna – consider jumping into the vaccine race. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the US has allowed around 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine in its stockpile to expire.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Bio­haven touts surge in Nurtec sales ahead of Pfiz­er takeover

Forget buyer’s remorse, Pfizer is likely feeling pretty good about its $11.6 billion Biohaven takeover deal following reports of a 57% sales boost for migraine med Nurtec.

Biohaven reported in Q2 results on Friday that it’s cleared the necessary antitrust hurdles to move forward with the sale of its calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) assets to Pfizer. However, because the company is “focused on workstreams related to the closing” of the deal, it did not host a call with analysts and investors.

Pharma ads are showing up on cooler screens at retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, under a new OptimizeRx deal (OptimizeRx)

Phar­ma brands chill in the phar­ma­cy re­tail aisle with new style ads on re­frig­er­a­tion screens

Want a prescription drug with that soda? While not directly possible, ads for pharma brands now running on beverage and snack cooler screens at pharmacy retailers may at least inspire customers to think about it.

OptimizeRx is hooking up with Cooler Screens media company to bring prescription drug advertising to refrigerator front doors at pharmacies including Walgreens, CVS and Kroger.

The “point of dispense” ads show a full-door image on the cooler doors when a shopper is 12 feet away, but shrinks down to a smaller banner-sized ad so that the refrigerator contents can be seen when a person gets closer. The doors — which have to be specially installed by Cooler Screens — can detect when a person is nearby, how long a person “dwells” in front of the ad and if they do or don’t open the door.

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