BioN­Tech rais­es mam­moth $270M A round, near­ing $1B mark as in­vestors con­tin­ue a love af­fair with mR­NA

Of all the star­tups on both con­ti­nents over the past decade, few could ri­val the growth of BioN­Tech af­ter it got start­ed with seed cash back in 2008. The mR­NA com­pa­ny has fund­ed much of its rapid ex­pan­sion with part­ner­ship cash, reach­ing more than 700 staffers at the end of 2017 with the con­sid­er­able sup­port of some big al­liances with the likes of Genen­tech and Sanofi and Gen­mab.

Un­til to­day.

This morn­ing the Mainz, Ger­man-based biotech took the wraps off a mega-raise of $270 mil­lion — an ‘A’ round de­signed to com­plete the rapid ramp-up of its con­sid­er­able man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions as it looks to ad­vance an ear­ly-stage per­son­al­ized mR­NA can­cer vac­cine de­signed to mob the anti­gens of in­di­vid­ual pa­tients.

Add up all the cash from the seed mon­ey of­fered by the bil­lion­aire Strüng­mann broth­ers through col­lab­o­ra­tion cash, grants and so on, says COO Sean Marett, and the to­tal comes to about $950 mil­lion, near­ing a block­buster bil­lion. Even by US stan­dards, that’s huge. By Eu­ro­pean stan­dards, it’s al­most un­heard of for a pri­vate life sci­ences com­pa­ny, com­ing close to the $320 mil­lion record set by Im­muno­core in the UK in 2015.

The round high­lights one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever seen for biotech ven­ture in­vest­ing. By the end of Thurs­day, End­points News will have re­port­ed on more than $700 mil­lion in new biotech in­vest­ments an­nounced over a 72-hour pe­ri­od. Even for the week ahead of JP­Mor­gan, that’s ex­tra­or­di­nary.

The Red­mile Group led the round, joined by Janus Hen­der­son In­vestors, In­vus, Fi­deli­ty Man­age­ment & Re­search Com­pa­ny and sev­er­al Eu­ro­pean fam­i­ly of­fices. The Strüng­mann Fam­i­ly Of­fice — op­er­at­ed by iden­ti­cal twins Thomas and An­dreas Strüng­mann, who found­ed the big gener­ics com­pa­ny Hexal and sold it to No­var­tis ($NVS) for $7.5 bil­lion — al­so came back in to in­vest again.

Ugur Sahin

The fo­cus now is ex­pand­ing clin­i­cal work on new ther­a­peu­tic pro­grams, says the COO, where BioN­Tech — helmed by CEO Ugur Sahin — has been en­gaged as a 50/50 part­ner with Genen­tech and oth­er gi­ants.

The lat­est round in­di­cates just how much in­vestor in­ter­est there is in mR­NA, with con­sid­er­able en­thu­si­asm for a tech­nol­o­gy that’s still very much in its in­fan­cy — but promis­ing to move fast. A few months ago, for ex­am­ple, BioN­Tech boast­ed of its abil­i­ty to de­liv­er mR­NA en­cod­ing for any an­ti­body bis­pe­cif­ic, spurring cells to cre­ate an an­ti-can­cer ther­a­py that worked against an­i­mal tu­mors. And there’s been some en­cour­ag­ing ear­ly snap­shots of im­muno­log­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty.

Two oth­er com­pa­nies, Cure­Vac and Mod­er­na, have al­so gath­ered huge amounts of sup­port for their own work in mR­NA, al­so look­ing at can­cer vac­cines in par­tic­u­lar and siz­ing up their po­ten­tial in com­bi­na­tion with PD-1/L1 in­hibitors.

By the end of the year, says Marett, BioN­Tech will like­ly have close to 850 em­ploy­ees, with ex­pand­ed ca­pac­i­ty to make its can­cer vac­cine as well as a CAR-T for one pa­tient at a time.

John Hood [file photo]

UP­DATE: Cel­gene and the sci­en­tist who cham­pi­oned fe­dra­tinib's rise from Sanofi's R&D grave­yard win FDA OK

Six years after Sanofi gave it up for dead, the FDA has approved the myelofibrosis drug fedratinib, now owned by Celgene.

The drug will be sold as Inrebic, and will soon land in the portfolio at Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is finalizing a deal to acquire Celgene.

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UP­DAT­ED: AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder was axed — and No­var­tis names a new CSO in wake of an ethics scan­dal

Now at the center of a storm of controversy over its decision to keep its knowledge of manipulated data hidden from regulators during an FDA review, Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has found a longtime veteran in the ranks to head the scientific work underway at AveXis, where the incident occurred. And the scientific founder has hit the exit.

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Ab­b­Vie gets its FDA OK for JAK in­hibitor upadac­i­tinib, but don’t look for this one to hit ex­ecs’ lofty ex­pec­ta­tions

Another big drug approval came through on Friday afternoon as the FDA OK’d AbbVie’s upadacitinib — an oral JAK1 inhibitor that is hitting the rheumatoid arthritis market with a black box warning of serious malignancies, infections and thrombosis reflecting fears associated with the class.

It will be sold as Rinvoq — at a wholesale price of $59,000 a year — and will likely soon face competition from a drug that AbbVie once controlled, and spurned. Reuters reports that a 4-week supply of Humira, by comparison, is $5,174, adding up to about $67,000 a year.

The top 10 fran­chise drugs in bio­phar­ma his­to­ry will earn a to­tal of $1.4T (tril­lion) by 2024 — what does that tell us?

Just in case you were looking for more evidence of just how important Amgen’s patent win on Enbrel is for the company and its investors, EvaluatePharma has come up with a forward-looking consensus estimate on what the list of top 10 drugs will look like in 2024.

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UP­DAT­ED: Sci­en­tist-CEO ac­cused of im­prop­er­ly us­ing con­fi­den­tial in­fo from uni­corn Alec­tor

The executive team at Alector $ALEC has a bone to pick with scientific co-founder Asa Abeliovich. Their latest quarterly rundown has this brief note buried inside:

On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

There’s no explicit word in the filing on what kind of confidential info was involved, but the proceeding got started 2 days ahead of Abeliovich’s IPO.

Abeliovich, formerly a tenured associate professor at Columbia, is a top scientist in the field of neurodegeneration, which is where Alector is targeted. More recently, he’s also helped start up Prevail Therapeutics as the CEO, which raised $125 million in an IPO. And there he’s planning on working on new gene therapies that target genetically defined subpopulations of Parkinson’s disease. Followup programs target Gaucher disease, frontotemporal dementia and synucleinopathies.

But this time Abeliovich is the CEO rather than a founding scientist. And some of their pipeline overlaps with Alector’s.

Abeliovich and Prevail, though, aren’t taking this one lying down.

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Chi­na has be­come a CEO-lev­el pri­or­i­ty for multi­na­tion­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies: the trend and the im­pli­ca­tions

After a “hot” period of rapid growth between 2009 and 2012, and a relatively “cooler” period of slower growth from 2013 to 2015, China has once again become a top-of-mind priority for the CEOs of most large, multinational pharmaceutical companies.

At the International Pharma Forum, hosted in March in Beijing by the R&D Based Pharmaceutical Association Committee (RDPAC) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), no fewer than seven CEOs of major multinational pharmaceutical firms participated, including GSK, Eli Lilly, LEO Pharma, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, Sanofi and UCB. A few days earlier, the CEOs of several other large multinationals attended the China Development Forum, an annual business forum hosted by the research arm of China’s State Council. It’s hard to imagine any other country, except the US, having such drawing power at CEO level.

As dis­as­ter struck, Ab­b­Vie’s Rick Gon­za­lez swooped in on Al­ler­gan with an of­fer Brent Saun­ders couldn’t say no to

Early March was a no good, awful, terrible time for Allergan CEO Brent Saunders. His big lead drug had imploded in a Phase III disaster and activists were after his hide — or at least his chairman’s title — as the stock price continued a steady droop that had eviscerated share value for investors.

But it was a perfect time for AbbVie CEO Rick Gonzalez to pick up the phone and ask Saunders if he’d like to consider a “strategic” deal.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

As­traZeneca's jug­ger­naut PARP play­er Lyn­parza scoops up an­oth­er dom­i­nant win in PhI­II as the FDA adds a 'break­through' for Calquence

AstraZeneca’s oncology R&D group under José Baselga keeps churning out hits.

Wednesday morning the pharma giant and their partners at Merck parted the curtains on a successful readout for their Phase III PAOLA-1 study, demonstrating statistically significant improvement in progression-free survival for women with ovarian cancer in a first-line maintenance setting who added their PARP Lynparza to Avastin. This is their second late-stage success in ovarian cancer, which will help stave off rivals like GSK.

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ICER blasts FDA, PTC and Sarep­ta for high prices on DMD drugs Em­flaza, Ex­ondys 51

ICER has some strong words for PTC, Sarepta and the FDA as the US drug price watchdog concludes that as currently priced, their respective new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy are decidedly not cost-effective.

The final report — which cements the conclusions of a draft issued in May — incorporates the opinion of a panel of 17 experts ICER convened in a public meeting last month. It also based its analysis of Emflaza (deflazacort) and Exondys 51 (eteplirsen) on updated annual costs of $81,400 and over $1 million, respectively, after citing “incorrect” lower numbers in the initial calculations.