Big Phar­ma joins £200M UK Biobank se­quenc­ing project; Monopar sets terms for $40M IPO

The UK Biobank is kick­ing off an am­bi­tious £200 mil­lion project to un­der­take whole-genome se­quenc­ing of 450,000 par­tic­i­pants, prob­ing the role that ge­net­ics plays in a range of com­mon and chron­ic ail­ments in­clud­ing de­men­tia, men­tal ill­ness, can­cer and heart dis­ease. Am­gen, As­traZeneca, Glax­o­SmithK­line and J&J pooled £100 mil­lion to­tal in ex­change for 9 months of ex­clu­sive ac­cess, while The Well­come Trust char­i­ty and the UK gov­ern­ment each pro­vid­ed £50 mil­lion.

The Well­come Sanger In­sti­tute in Cam­bridge and de­CODE ge­net­ics in Ice­land — a sub­sidiary of Am­gen — have been com­mis­sioned to con­duct the se­quenc­ing.

Gilead is hand­ing out a $10 mil­lion mile­stone pay­ment for the HIV deal they struck with Durect in Ju­ly. At the time, Gilead spent a mod­est $25 mil­lion in cash for the rights to jump on the plat­form at Durect, which has been us­ing its tech­nol­o­gy to come up with an ex­tend­ed-re­lease ver­sion of bupi­va­caine. The lat­est cash comes out of the $75 mil­lion promised for de­vel­op­ment and reg­u­la­to­ry mile­stones. On top of that, Gilead has re­served $70 mil­lion in sales goal cash and $150 mil­lion for each new de­vel­op­ment pro­gram it adds to its pipeline out of the pact.

Monopar Ther­a­peu­tics has an­nounced the terms for its IPO. The Wil­mette, Illi­nois-based com­pa­ny plans to of­fer 4.4 mil­lion shares at a price range of $8 to $10 to raise $40 mil­lion, it said in a fil­ing on Tues­day. At the mid­point of the pro­posed range, Monopar would com­mand a ful­ly di­lut­ed mar­ket val­ue of $130 mil­lion.

Co-found­ed by Christo­pher Starr af­ter he stepped down as Rap­tor CEO, the biotech’s pipeline in­cludes va­lidive — ob­tained from France’s Onx­eo in 2017  — for se­vere oral mu­cosi­tis in­duced by chemora­dio­ther­a­py in head and neck can­cer pa­tients and cam­siru­bicin, a can­cer drug aimed at soft tis­sue sar­co­ma. Jon­esTrad­ing is the sole bookrun­ner on the deal. The com­pa­ny plans to list un­der the sym­bol $MN­PR.

On­co­Cell MDx — a pan dis­ease im­munogenomics plat­form com­pa­ny fo­cused on non­in­va­sive blood-based tests — has raised $22.2 mil­lion in Se­ries B fi­nanc­ing. The round was led by Sav­itr Cap­i­tal along with ex­ist­ing in­vestors. Found­ed on tech­nolo­gies cre­at­ed by Amin Kas­sis at Har­vard med­ical school, On­co­Cell has raised more than $30 mil­lion to date to de­tect and oth­er dis­eases us­ing a sin­gle blood sam­ple. It plans to launch a blood test for the de­tec­tion and grad­ing of ag­gres­sive prostate can­cer next year.

→ The decades of fail­ure to de­vel­op a drug to fight Alzheimer’s dis­ease has con­vinced The Na­tion­al In­sti­tute on Ag­ing to con­fer a five-year fed­er­al grant of up to $53.4 mil­lion to Brown Uni­ver­si­ty and Boston-based Har­vard Med­ical af­fil­i­ate, He­brew Se­nior­Life, to sup­port tri­als aimed at im­prov­ing care for peo­ple with de­men­tia.

A fa­vorite in Alex­ion’s C-suite is leav­ing, and some mighty sur­prised an­a­lysts aren’t the least bit hap­py about it

Analysts hate to lose a biotech CFO they’ve come to trust and admire — especially if they’re being blindsided by a surprise exit.

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While No­var­tis ban­ish­es Zol­gens­ma scan­dal scars — Bio­gen goes on a Spin­raza 'of­fen­sive'

While Novartis painstakingly works to mop up the stench of the data manipulation scandal associated with its expensive gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Zolgensma— rival Biogen is attempting to expand the use of its SMA therapy, Spinraza. 

The US drugmaker $BIIB secured US approval for Spinraza for use in the often fatal genetic disease in 2016. The approval covered a broad range of patients with infantile-onset (most likely to develop Type 1) SMA. 

Jason Kelly. Mike Blake/Reuters via Adobe

Eye­ing big ther­a­peu­tic push, Gink­go bags $290M to build a cell pro­gram­ming em­pire

Ginkgo Bioworks is on a roll. Days after publicizing a plan to nurture new startups via partnerships with accelerators Y Combinator and Petri, the Boston biotech says it has raised another $290 million for its cell programming platform to reach further and wider.

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UP­DAT­ED: Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi to un­veil bill for fed­er­al­ly ne­go­ti­at­ed drug prices

After months of buzz from both sides of the aisle, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will today introduce her plan to allow the federal government to negotiate prices for 250 prescription drugs, setting up a showdown with a pharmaceutical industry working overtime to prevent it.

The need to limit drug prices is a rare point of agreement between President Trump and Democrats, although the president has yet to comment on the proposal and will likely face pressure to back a more conservative option or no bill at all. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is reportedly lobbying his fellow party members on a more modest proposal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in July.

David Grainger [file photo]

'Dis­con­nect the bas­tard­s' — one biotech's plan to break can­cer cell­s' uni­fied de­fens­es

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are the current gladiators of cancer treatment, but they come with well-known limitations and side-effects. The emergence of immunotherapy — a ferocious new titan in oncologist’s toolbox — takes the brakes off the immune system to kill cancer cells with remarkable success in some cases, but the approach is not always effective. What makes certain forms of cancer so resilient? Scientists may have finally pieced together a tantalizing piece of the puzzle, and a new biotech is banking on a new approach to fill the gap.

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Jeff Kindler's Cen­trex­ion re­news bid to make pub­lic de­but

Jeffrey Kindler’s plan to take his biotech — which is developing a slate of non-opioid painkillers — public, is back on.

The Boston based company, led by former Pfizer $PFE chief Kindler, originally contemplated a $70 million to $80 million IPO last year— but eventually postponed that strategy. On Wednesday, the company revived its bid to make a public debut in a filing with the SEC — although no pricing details were disclosed.

Zachary Hornby. Boundless

'A fourth rev­o­lu­tion in can­cer ther­a­pies': ARCH-backed Bound­less Bio flash­es big check, makes big­ger promis­es in de­but

It was the cellular equivalent of opening your car door and finding an active, roaring engine in the driver seat.

Scientists learned strands of DNA could occasionally appear outside of its traditional home in the nucleus in the 1970s, when they appeared as little, innocuous circles on microscopes; inexplicable but apparently innate. But not until UC San Diego’s Paul Mischel published his first study in Science in 2014 did researchers realize these circles were not only active but potentially overactive and driving some cancer tumors’ superhuman growth.

It’s fi­nal­ly over: Bio­gen, Ei­sai scrap big Alzheimer’s PhI­I­Is af­ter a pre­dictable BACE cat­a­stro­phe rais­es safe­ty fears

Months after analysts and investors called on Biogen and Eisai to scrap their BACE drug for Alzheimer’s and move on in the wake of a string of late-stage failures and rising safety fears, the partners have called it quits. And they said they were dropping the drug — elenbecestat — after the independent monitoring board raised concerns about…safety.

We don’t know exactly what researchers found in this latest catastrophe, but the companies noted in their release that investigators had determined that the drug was flunking the risk/benefit analysis.

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Mer­ck helps bankroll new part­ner Themis' game plan to fin­ish the chikun­gun­ya race and be­gin on­colyt­ic virus quest

As Themis gears up for a Phase III trial of its chikungunya vaccine, the Vienna-based biotech has closed out €40 million ($44 million) to foot the clinical and manufacturing bills.

Its heavyweight partners at Merck — which signed a pact around a mysterious “blockbuster indication” last month — jumped into the Series D, led by new investors Farallon Capital and Hadean Ventures. Adjuvant Capital also joined, as did current investors Global Health Investment Fund, aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.