BioAt­la rakes in $72.5M Se­ries D, ad­vanc­ing re­search for pH-de­tect­ing can­cer treat­ments

A lit­tle over a year af­ter agree­ing to a world­wide col­lab­o­ra­tion with hefty Chi­nese biotech BeiGene worth up to $270 mil­lion, BioAt­la is ready for an­oth­er haul.

Scott Smith

The San Diego-based biotech pulled in a $72.5 mil­lion haul for their Se­ries D fi­nanc­ing, which the com­pa­ny an­nounced Wednes­day. Funds will go to­ward their four main clin­i­cal pro­grams de­vel­op­ing can­cer treat­ments, two of which are cur­rent­ly in Phase II, BioAt­la pres­i­dent and for­mer Cel­gene COO Scott Smith said.

“We were do­ing a [round of] fi­nanc­ing that was orig­i­nal­ly sup­posed to close on the 31st of March, and be­cause of the ex­treme volatil­i­ty in the mar­kets in Feb­ru­ary and March we nev­er got that done,” Smith told End­points News. “Once we got in­to April we start­ed up again, and we were able to ex­ploit the lim­i­ta­tions of every­body work­ing at home on Zoom calls, and do­ing every­thing vir­tu­al­ly we were able to pull to­geth­er what I be­lieve is an un­be­liev­ably strong syn­di­cate.”

Smith said the com­pa­ny spe­cial­izes in de­vel­op­ing “con­di­tion­al­ly ac­tive bi­o­log­ics,” or CABs for short, which are pro­teins that are de­signed to on­ly ac­ti­vate in a par­tic­u­lar cel­lu­lar mi­croen­vi­ron­ment. These pro­teins can al­so “turn off” should they move away from the ar­eas they aren’t de­signed to treat by de­tect­ing pH lev­els.

The un­der­ly­ing goal is to fig­ure out the same thing can­cer drug de­vel­op­ers have been fo­cused on since the ear­li­est med­i­cines be­came avail­able — re­duc­ing tox­i­c­i­ty, or in­vent­ing a method that can at­tack and kill tu­mors with­out tar­get­ing healthy tis­sue. Be­cause most tu­mors are more acidic than healthy tis­sue, Smith said, BioAt­la’s CABs can dis­tin­guish be­tween pH lev­els and pre­vent non-can­cer­ous cells from be­ing harmed.

“This is an ob­ser­va­tion that’s been around for 100 years be­cause of the way the tu­mor me­tab­o­lism is dif­fer­ent than nor­mal tis­sue,” Smith said. “We mod­i­fy the an­ti­bod­ies that al­low them to bind at, say, a low­er pH than 7.4, but not bind at 7.4.”

Cur­rent­ly, BioAt­la’s in-house pro­grams are be­ing de­vel­oped to treat re­frac­to­ry sar­co­ma (by tar­get­ing AXL), melanoma (ROR2) and non-small cell lung can­cer (AXL and ROR2). But the CABs can be ap­plied to a wide ar­ray of can­cers, Smith said, and BioAt­la has re­ceived some in­ter­est in re­search­ing their ef­fi­ca­cy to treat ovar­i­an can­cer.

Their clin­i­cal pipeline is “where we saw most promise from the ini­tial Phase I, and that’s what we’re ex­plor­ing first,” Smith said.

BioAt­la’s deal with BeiGene in April 2019 is study­ing how their CABs work in com­bi­na­tions to pro­vide po­ten­tial­ly safer can­cer treat­ments, rather than just the CABs by them­selves. The two com­pa­nies are cur­rent­ly re­search­ing how BeiGene’s tislelizum­ab, an an­ti-PD-1 an­ti­body, and BioAt­la’s BA3071, a CT­LA-4 in­hibitor cre­at­ed uti­liz­ing CAB tech­nol­o­gy, can work to­geth­er.

Though CT­LA-4 was the first check­point to hit the mar­ket, re­sult­ing in huge wind­falls for Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb’s Yer­voy, the in­hibitor has run in­to clin­i­cal trou­bles in re­cent years, fail­ing key stud­ies in lung can­cer and melanoma. CT­LA-4 can lead to sig­nif­i­cant tox­i­c­i­ty lev­els, and in­dus­try-wide fund­ing has poured in­to these types of com­bi­na­tion stud­ies and part­ner­ships to try to lessen that bur­den.

But Smith hopes clin­i­cal tri­als for this com­bi­na­tion, which will launch Phase I some­time in the third quar­ter of 2020, can over­come those hur­dles.

“The po­ten­tial we see here is the op­por­tu­ni­ty of our CT­LA-4, be­cause it elim­i­nates healthy tis­sue bind­ing or re­duces it, that our an­ti­body the­o­ret­i­cal­ly could be giv­en more safe­ly in com­bi­na­tion with some­thing like an Op­di­vo,” Smith said. “We need to do the tri­als ob­vi­ous­ly, and it’s our hope and our be­lief based on the pre­clin­i­cal da­ta we should have re­duced tox­i­c­i­ty rel­a­tive to Yer­voy, that’s the ex­per­i­ment that we’re go­ing to do here.”

Soleus Cap­i­tal led the fundrais­ing and Pfiz­er’s VC arm al­so chipped in again. New in­vestors in­clud­ed co-lead HBM Health­care In­vest­ments, Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Far­al­lon Cap­i­tal, Pap­pas Cap­i­tal, Box­er Cap­i­tal and funds man­aged by Janus Hen­der­son.

Jan Hatzius (Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

When will it end? Gold­man econ­o­mist gives late-stage vac­cines a good shot at tar­get­ing 'large shares' of the US by mid-2021 — but the down­side is daunt­ing

It took decades for hepatitis B research to deliver a slate of late-stage candidates capable of reining the disease in.

With Covid-19, the same timeline has devoured all of 5 months. And the outcome will influence the lives of billions of people and a multitrillion-dollar world economy.

Count the economists at Goldman Sachs as optimistic that at least one of these leading vaccines will stay on this furiously accelerated pace and get over the regulatory goal line before the end of this year, with a shot at several more near-term OKs. That in turn should lead to the production of billions of doses of vaccines that can create herd immunity in the US by the middle of next year, with Europe following a few months later.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sean Nolan and RA Session II

Less than 3 months af­ter launch, the AveX­is crew’s Taysha rais­es $95M Se­ries B. Is an IPO next?

The old AveXis team is moving quickly in Dallas.

Three months ago, they launched Taysha with $30 million in Series A funding and a pipeline of gene therapies out of UT Southwestern. Now, they’ve announced an oversubscribed $95 million Series B. And the biotech is declining all interview requests on the news, the kind of broad silence that can indicate an IPO is in the pipeline.

Biotechs, including those relatively fresh off launch, have been going public at a frenzy since the pandemic began. Investors have showed a willingness to put upwards of $200 million to companies that have yet to bring a drug into the clinic. Still, if Taysha were to go public in the near future, it would be perhaps the shortest path from launch to IPO in recent biotech memory.

UP­DAT­ED: No­vavax her­alds the lat­est pos­i­tive snap­shot of ear­ly-stage Covid-19 vac­cine — so why did its stock briefly crater?

High-flying Novavax $NVAX became the latest of the Covid-19 vaccine players to stake out a positive set of biomarker data from its early-stage look at its vaccine in humans.

Their adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine was “well-tolerated and elicited robust antibody responses numerically superior to that seen in human convalescent sera,” the company noted. According to the biotech:

All subjects developed anti-spike IgG antibodies after a single dose of vaccine, many of them also developing wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses, and after Dose 2, 100% of participants developed wild-type virus neutralizing antibody responses. Both anti-spike IgG and viral neutralization responses compared favorably to responses from patients with clinically significant COVID‑19 disease. Importantly, the IgG antibody response was highly correlated with neutralization titers, demonstrating that a significant proportion of antibodies were functional.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Lund­beck sounds taps on an­oth­er CNS drug, re­treat­ing from a mine field still oc­cu­pied by a Mer­ck team

Lundbeck has snipped another clinical-stage branch of its CNS research, dumping a schizophrenia program after determining that their therapy would have no positive influence on the disease.

Designed originally as a 240-patient study, researchers set out in early 2019 to see if a homegrown drug dubbed Lu AF11167 could make it through a proof-of-concept study. The drug is a PDE10Ai inhibitor, targeting an enzyme which it said at the time offered a new pathway to retuning the body’s neurotransmitter dopamine. The big idea was that by hitting their target, the drug would modulate “dopamine D1 and D2 receptor-mediated intraneuronal signaling without binding to these receptors,” influencing negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

RA, No­var­tis back Gen­tiBio's seed round, plans to launch de­vel­op­ment of En­gTreg ther­a­pies

Boston, MA-based startup GentiBio landed a $20 million seed fund from three investors to dive into engineered regulatory T cell (EngTreg) development.

Marquee investors OrbiMed, Novartis Venture Fund and RA Capital Management have backed GentiBio’s mission to develop EngTregs for the treatment of autoimmune, alloimmune, autoinflammatory, and allergic diseases. Unlike other companies studying treatments using a patient’s own Tregs, GentiBio plans to make use of CD4+ immune cells, found in the blood.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Mod­er­na CEO Stéphane Ban­cel out­lines a prospec­tive moth­er­lode of Covid-19 vac­cine rev­enue — will a back­lash fol­low?

Moderna shows no sign of slowing down, or turning charitable when it comes to pricing supplies of its Covid-19 vaccine.

One of the leaders in the Phase III race to get a Covid-19 vaccine across the finish line in record time, Moderna says it’s on track to complete enrollment in one of the most avidly watched studies in the world next month. And the biotech has already banked some $400 million in deposits for vaccine supply as it works through negotiations with countries around the world — as CEO Stéphane Bancel sets out to hire a commercial team.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Ver­sant de­buts Ridge­line's start­up #4, armed with $30M and al­ter­na­tive TCR cell ther­a­pies for sol­id tu­mors

For all the iterations and advances in TCR therapies for cancer, any experimental treatments involving T cell receptors share one trait: By definition, they only recognize antigens presented as peptides on the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) on cells.

Versant reckons it’s time to expand the arsenal. With $30 million in initial funding, its Ridgeline Discovery Engine in Switzerland has been working on a non-peptidic approach that it says has tumor-agnostic potential, especially in solid tumors. They’ve named it Matterhorn, after a Swiss mountain as they did with the three other companies that have emerged from the Basel-based incubator.

Covid-19 roundup: J&J and BAR­DA agree to $1 bil­lion for 100 mil­lion dos­es; Plas­ma re­duces mor­tal­i­ty by 50% — re­ports

J&J has become the latest vaccine developer to agree to supply BARDA with doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, signing an agreement that will give the government 100 million doses in exchange for $1 billion in funding.

The agreement, similar to those signed by Novavax, Sanofi and AstraZeneca-Oxford, provides funding not only for individual doses but to help J&J ramp up manufacturing. Pfizer, by contrast, received $1.95 billion for the doses alone. Still, if one looked at each agreement as purchase amounts, J&J’s deal would be $10 per dose, slotting in between Novavax’s $16 per dose and AstraZeneca’s $4 per dose.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 86,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CF Foun­da­tion, Long­wood team on new in­cu­ba­tor for com­pa­nies with cut­ting-edge CF treat­ments

Nine months after launching a $500 million hunt for a cure for cystic fibrosis, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation said it will use a portion of those funds to do something it has never done before: help launch new companies.

The CF Foundation, whose venture philanthropy efforts helped fund Vertex’s line of powerful CF drugs, is teaming with Longwood Fund to create a CF incubator. The incubator will identify new companies with platforms or technologies that can be applied in the rare genetic condition. The partners can then finance early development in exchange for a commitment from the companies to focus on applications in cystic fibrosis.