Biotech investapalooza continues with more venture rounds for startups; OvaScience cuts half of its workforce (again)

Editor’s note: We here at Endpoints News pride ourselves on providing some comprehensive accounts of all the venture cash flowing into biotech companies, but this week that’s become more than a challenge. In just a matter of three days we’ve fielded news on well over $700 million in venture investments in new and existing life sci companies. And we can’t do a story on each one. So below take a snapshot look at the rest of the companies announcing new raises in the days ahead of JPMorgan. — John Carroll

Bristol-Myers partner Enterome has banked a $38.5 million round to back work on two key micro biome programs for Crohn’s and glioblastoma. In addition to the Series D, there’s also a $48 million loan coming from the European Investment Bank. Bristol-Myers supported the round along with new venture investor Principia SGR and Seventure, Health for Life Capital, LundbeckFonden Ventures, Omnes Capital and Nestlé Health Science.

→ Boston-based Neurogastrx has put together a $45 million A round from 5AM Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors and venBio Partners. The biotech is on the lookout for proof-of-concept data on a lead asset — NG-101 — in treating gastroparesis. Jim O’Mara has been appointed CEO and Klaus Veitinger, a partner at OrbiMed Advisors, will become chairman. The biotech plans to pull up stakes and move to the big Boston hub with this round.

→ Vienna-based Themis has raised a 10 million euro C round to back their work on new vaccines. The investor group was led by the Global Health Investment Fund and included aws Gruenderfonds, Omnes Capital, Ventech and Wellington Partners Life Sciences.

→ In other mRNA news this morning, CureVac and Arcturus $ARCT are teaming up their technologies on a slate of new development programs. They’ll be using Arcturus’ delivery tech to develop 4 enzyme replacement and antibody generation projects.

→ Another round of corporate restructuring that involves slashing its staff count by half has come to OvaScience $OVAS. The Waltham, MA-based fertility company expects to complete the layoffs by March, spending $1-1.5 million along the way. The exact amount of cost savings supposed to turn up in Q2 2018 is not discussed in the statement. “In its early years, OvaScience grew rapidly to accommodate the global commercialization of the AUGMENT treatment,” said CEO Christopher Kroeger (that strategy is now defunct). “Following the strategic decision to focus our resources on the advancement of OvaPrime and OvaTure, however, we are now operating with a tighter research and development focus.” Kroeger started at the helm back in June, 2017 when — if you’re having deja vu, this is why — OvaScience let go of 50% of its employees. Joining him in the C-suite this month will be new CSO James Lillie, who will lead preclinical efforts.

Pfizer has given the boot to EOS200271, the IDO1 inhibitor it licensed from Belgium-based iTeos Therapeutics back in 2014. Pfizer paid €24 million ($29 million) upfront to secure the rights to develop the drug as a single agent in patients with brain cancer. After failing to find signs of efficacy in a Phase I brain cancer trial, the pharma giant returned the rights to develop the drug back to iTeos. Still, iTeos is optimistic about the drug: “IDO1 inhibitors are one of the most promising immuno-oncology drug classes currently in development,” said iTeos CEO Michel Detheux in a statement. “This asset is one of four IDO1 inhibitors in clinical development worldwide and EOS200271 is the only IDO1 inhibitor with excellent brain penetration. We believe that the return of this unique asset gives iTeos the exciting opportunity to continue to evaluate EOS200271’s potential in different indications and combinations.”

Shire has picked up the FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation for maribavir (SHP620), a Phase III therapy for cytomegalovirus infection.

With additional reporting by Brittany Meiling and Amber Tong.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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