Bill Gates has a $100M and a 5-point strat­e­gy to end 15 years of fail­ure in Alzheimer’s R&D

Bill Gates is go­ing af­ter Alzheimer’s.

The soft­ware bil­lion­aire is in­vest­ing $50 mil­lion of his own mon­ey — not from the Gates Foun­da­tion — in­to the in­dus­try/gov­ern­ment backed De­men­tia Dis­cov­ery Fund, which set out a cou­ple of years ago to back some trans­la­tion­al work on new ap­proach­es to the dis­ease. And he tells Reuters that he’s ear­marked $50 mil­lion more to back new com­pa­nies on his own that have the po­ten­tial to tack­le some fresh ap­proach­es to a dis­ease that has de­feat­ed vir­tu­al­ly every­thing thrown at it in the last 15 years.

Most of the big Phase II­Is have looked to elim­i­nate two pos­si­ble caus­es of Alzheimer’s — amy­loid be­ta and tau — in a crude at­tempt to bend the curve of the dis­ease. But all the piv­otal work by Eli Lil­ly, J&J, Mer­ck and oth­ers has failed bad­ly over the years.

Gates wants to go in some new di­rec­tions.

In an in-depth blog post dis­cussing his in­vest­ment in the fund, which is man­aged by SV Life Sci­ences, Gates out­lined his own 5-part strat­e­gy to tak­ing a fresh ap­proach. His thoughts:

  • We are woe­ful­ly ig­no­rant of how this dis­ease de­vel­ops and what may be dri­ving it. Why are blacks and Lati­nos more like­ly to de­vel­op Alzheimer’s? No one knows. So it’s time to go back and do the ba­sic re­search to study caus­es and bi­ol­o­gy.
  • Let’s de­vel­op a re­li­able way — per­haps a blood test — to di­ag­nose Alzheimer’s ear­li­er. The on­ly sure-fire way to do it now is through an au­top­sy, which has some ob­vi­ous lim­i­ta­tions in terms of mount­ing clin­i­cal stud­ies.
  • Wouldn’t it be great if tau and amy­loid be­ta worked as a tar­get? (Gates is noth­ing if not sup­port­ive.) Yes, but he wants to fund some new ideas.
  • “If we could de­vel­op a process to pre-qual­i­fy par­tic­i­pants and cre­ate ef­fi­cient reg­istries,” Gates writes, “we could start new tri­als more quick­ly.”
  • Com­pile all the da­ta out there in one plat­form and let re­searchers ex­plore it for new clues to de­vel­op­ing drugs and di­ag­nos­tics. Not sur­pris­ing­ly for the Mi­crosoft founder, that’s Gates’ sweet spot and where he might fo­cus much of his at­ten­tion.

“My back­ground at Mi­crosoft and my (Gates) Foun­da­tion back­ground say to me that a da­ta-dri­ven con­tri­bu­tion might be an area where I can help add some val­ue,” he told Reuters.

Gates is in it for the long haul. He ex­pects it could quite like­ly be a decade or more be­fore some­thing sub­stan­tial comes out of this all. And as a re­sult it makes more sense to in­vest his own mon­ey rather than the foun­da­tion’s. He notes:

I’m mak­ing this in­vest­ment on my own, not through the foun­da­tion. The first Alzheimer’s treat­ments might not come to fruition for an­oth­er decade or more, and they will be very ex­pen­sive at first. Once that day comes, our foun­da­tion might look at how we can ex­pand ac­cess in poor coun­tries.

Bill Gates has one of those leg­endary tech rep­u­ta­tions all biotechs love to be as­so­ci­at­ed with. And Gates-backed biotechs have that ex­tra lus­ter that opens doors, rais­es cash and gets the at­ten­tion of the ma­jor play­ers. The Alzheimer’s R&D groups he will back over the com­ing years have a lot more to gain than his mon­ey.


Im­age: Bill Gates. WEC

Sanofi's John Reed con­tin­ues to re­or­ga­nize R&D, cut­ting 466 jobs while boost­ing can­cer, gene ther­a­py re­search

The R&D re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in­side Sanofi is con­tin­u­ing, more than a year af­ter the phar­ma gi­ant brought in John Reed to head the re­search arm of the Paris-based com­pa­ny.

Sanofi said in a state­ment that it is cut­ting its re­search ranks by 466 in France and Ger­many while drop­ping new, in-house car­di­ol­o­gy drug re­search. Ex­ist­ing car­dio pro­grams will go for­ward, says Sanofi, but the pipeline is be­ing cut off at the dis­cov­ery source. The phar­ma gi­ant, long known as a lag­gard in R&D, in­tends to com­mit more of its re­sources to the 4 re­main­ing R&D fo­cus­es: can­cer, im­munol­o­gy, rare dis­eases and vac­cines.

The top 10 block­buster drugs in the late-stage pipeline — Eval­u­ate adds 6 new ther­a­pies to heavy-hit­ter list

Vertex comes in for a substantial amount of criticism for its no-holds-barred tactical approach toward wresting the price it wants for its commercial drugs in Europe. But the flip side of that coin is a highly admired R&D and commercial operation that regularly wins kudos from analysts for their ability to engineer greater cash flow from the breakthrough drugs they create.

Both aspects needed for success in this business are on display in the program backing Vertex’s triple for cystic fibrosis. VX-659/VX-445 + Tezacaftor + Ivacaftor — it’s been whittled down to 445 now — was singled out by Evaluate Pharma as the late-stage therapy most likely to win the crown for drug sales in 5 years, with a projected peak revenue forecast of $4.3 billion.

The latest annual list, which you can see here in their latest world preview, includes a roster of some of the most closely watched development programs in biopharma. And Evaluate has added 6 must-watch experimental drugs to the top 10 as drugs fail or go on to a first approval. With apologies to the list maker, I revamped this to rank the top 10 by projected 2024 sales, instead of Evaluate's net present value rankings.

It's how we roll at Endpoints News.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the top 10:

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Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Wood­ford braces po­lit­i­cal storm as UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors scru­ti­nize fund sus­pen­sion

The shock of Neil Wood­ford’s de­ci­sion to block with­drawals for his flag­ship fund is still rip­pling through the rest of his port­fo­lio — and be­yond. Un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, UK fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tors are now tak­ing a hard look while in­vestors con­tin­ue to flee.

In a re­sponse let­ter to an MP, the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­i­ty re­vealed that it’s opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the sus­pen­sion fol­low­ing months of en­gage­ment with Link Fund So­lu­tions, which tech­ni­cal­ly del­e­gat­ed Wood­ford’s firm to man­age its funds.

Gilead baits new al­liance with $45M up­front, div­ing in­to the busy pro­tein degra­da­tion field

Gilead is jump­ing on board the pro­tein degra­da­tion band­wag­on. And they’re turn­ing to a low-pro­file Third Rock start­up for the ex­per­tise. But if you were look­ing for a trans­for­ma­tion­al deal to kick up fresh en­thu­si­asm for Gilead, you’ll have to re­main pa­tient.

This one will have a long way to go be­fore they get in­to the clin­ic.

The big biotech said Wednes­day morn­ing that it is pay­ing $45 mil­lion up­front and re­serv­ing a whop­ping $2.3 bil­lion in biotech bucks if San Fran­cis­co-based Nurix can point the way to new can­cer ther­a­pies, as well as drugs for oth­er, un­spec­i­fied dis­eases.

A new num­ber 1 drug? Keytru­da tapped to top the 10 biggest block­busters on the world stage by 2024

Analysts may be fretting about Keytruda’s longterm prospects as a host of rival therapies elbow their way to the market. But the folks at Evaluate Pharma are confident that last year’s $7 billion earner is headed for glory, tapping it to beat out the current #1 therapy Humira as AbbVie watches that franchise swoon over the next 5 years.

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In­vestor day prep at Mer­ck in­cludes a new strat­e­gy to pick up the pace on M&A — re­port

Mer­ck’s re­cent deals to buy up two bolt-on biotechs — Ti­los and Pelo­ton — weren’t an aber­ra­tion. In­stead, both ac­qui­si­tions mark a new strat­e­gy to beef up its dom­i­nant can­cer drug op­er­a­tions cen­tered on Keytru­da while look­ing to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns that too many of its eggs are in the one I/O bas­ket for their PD-1 pro­gram. And Mer­ck is go­ing af­ter more small- and mid-sized buy­outs to calm those fears.

Dave Barrett, Brian Chee, Amir Nashat, Amy Schulman. Polaris

Bob Langer's first port of call — Po­laris Part­ners — maps $400M for ninth fund

Health and tech ven­ture group Po­laris Part­ners, which counts Alec­tor, Al­ny­lam and Ed­i­tas Med­i­cine as part of its port­fo­lio, is set­ting up its ninth fund, rough­ly two years af­ter it closed Po­laris VI­II with $435 mil­lion in the bank, sur­pass­ing its tar­get by $35 mil­lion.

The Boston-based firm, in an SEC fil­ing, said it in­tends to raise $400 mil­lion for the fund. Po­laris — which rou­tine­ly backs com­pa­nies mold­ed out of the work done in the lab of pro­lif­ic sci­en­tist Bob Langer of MIT  — typ­i­cal­ly in­vests ear­ly, and sticks around till com­pa­nies are in the green. Like its peers at Flag­ship and Third Rock, Po­laris is all about cham­pi­oning the lo­cal biotech scene with a steady flow of start­up cash.

John Chiminski, Catalent CEO - File Photo

'It's a growth play': Catal­ent ac­quires Bris­tol-My­er­s' Eu­ro­pean launch pad, ex­pand­ing glob­al CD­MO ops

Catalent is staying on the growth track.

Just two months after committing $1.2 billion to pick up Paragon and take a deep dive into the sizzling hot gene therapy manufacturing sector, the CDMO is bouncing right back with a deal to buy out Bristol-Myers’ central launchpad for new therapies in Europe, acquiring a complex in Anagni, Italy, southwest of Rome, that will significantly expand its capacity on the continent.

There are no terms being offered, but this is no small deal. The Anagni campus employs some 700 staffers, and Catalent is planning to go right in — once the deal closes late this year — with a blueprint to build up the operations further as they expand on oral solid, biologics, and sterile product manufacturing and packaging.

This is an uncommon deal, Catalent CEO John Chiminski tells me. But it offers a shortcut for rapid growth that cuts years out of developing a green fields project. That’s time Catalent doesn’t have as the industry undergoes unprecedented expansion around the world.

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Partners Innovation Fund

David de Graaf now has his $28.5M launch round in place, build­ing a coen­zyme A plat­form in his lat­est start­up

Long­time biotech ex­ec David de Graaf has the cash he needs to set up the pre­clin­i­cal foun­da­tion for his coen­zyme A me­tab­o­lism com­pa­ny Comet. A few high-pro­file in­vestors joined the ven­ture syn­di­cate to sup­ply Comet with $28.5 mil­lion in launch mon­ey — enough to get it two years in­to the plat­form-build­ing game, with­in knock­ing dis­tance of the clin­ic.

Canaan jumped in along­side ex­ist­ing in­vestor Sofinno­va Part­ners to co-lead the round, with par­tic­i­pa­tion by ex­ist­ing in­vestor INKEF Cap­i­tal and new in­vestor BioIn­no­va­tion Cap­i­tal.