Biotechs grabbed $1.83B in VC cash in Q3. Still fast but a lit­tle less fu­ri­ous

Biotech VCs in the US con­tin­ued to steam along in the third quar­ter, rack­ing up $1.8 bil­lion in new in­vest­ments. That marks a slight drop from the same pe­ri­od a year ago, but 2016 is still out­strip­ping every­thing else on the record books aside from the siz­zling stretch through 2015.

The to­tal tots up as $5.5 bil­lion for the first nine months of the year, as VCs con­tin­ue to splurge on their port­fo­lio of new and ex­ist­ing drug de­vel­op­ers. By this point last year, the to­tal for the year topped $6 bil­lion.

To put that in some ad­di­tion­al per­spec­tive, the to­tal for the first three quar­ters in 2010 was $3.1 bil­lion, as many shook their heads over the post-2008 slow­down.

The third quar­ter num­bers did re­flect a tick up from the sec­ond quar­ter, with the cash split among 87 biotech­nol­o­gy deals tracked by the Mon­eyTree Re­port from Price­wa­ter­house­C­oop­ers, based on da­ta pro­vid­ed by Thom­son Reuters.

Three of those deals reg­is­tered in the top 10 na­tion­wide for all of the ven­ture cash dis­trib­uted in the US. And they un­der­score an ap­petite for mega-rounds for se­lect com­pa­nies that are promis­ing to dis­rupt the R&D field.

Mod­er­na led the biotech bunch with its $474 mil­lion in new ven­ture cash, which has brought its to­tal to $1.5 bil­lion as the com­pa­ny cre­ates the in­fra­struc­ture for a ful­ly op­er­a­tional ven­ture ahead of some con­vinc­ing mid-stage da­ta. That’s raised eye­brows in the in­dus­try, but CEO Stephane Ban­cel is grab­bing for the brass ring. Vic­to­ry would be huge; de­feat would be too.

Intar­cia’s $184 mil­lion quar­ter is de­signed to fin­ish the work on its im­plant for longterm dos­ing of di­a­bet­ics. The mag­ic num­ber in di­a­betes is 7 for A1C lev­els, and a cocky Intar­cia be­lieves its tech­nol­o­gy can more re­li­ably get large num­bers of pa­tients to their goals, beat­ing the gi­ants at a game they’ve con­trolled for decades. Biotechs typ­i­cal­ly avoid di­a­betes drugs; too ex­pen­sive in Phase III, with plen­ty of im­plo­sions along the way. Intar­cia be­lieves it can beat those odds.

— A smart, con­fi­dent ex-Genen­tech crew is call­ing the shots at De­nali, the third biotech found on the na­tion­al top 10 list with $130 mil­lion in ven­ture cash and a host of new col­lab­o­ra­tions to ac­cel­er­ate its work on neu­ro­science. This field is a grave­yard of dead and dy­ing pro­grams, but De­nali says the sec­tor is ripe to make re­al progress. It’s an­oth­er big, bold gam­ble to over­throw the sta­tus quo.

To be sure, while some VCs back the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies to the hilt, there are plen­ty of small biotechs op­er­at­ing with small staffs and a lean-and-mean ap­proach to new drug de­vel­op­ment. They may not get as much at­ten­tion, but the bet­ting now will fo­cus on who sur­vives and who dives.

It’s the most in­ter­est­ing game in town, no mat­ter how you bet your mon­ey.

Hal Barron, GSK

Break­ing the death spi­ral: Hal Bar­ron talks about trans­form­ing the mori­bund R&D cul­ture at GSK in a crit­i­cal year for the late-stage pipeline

Just ahead of GlaxoSmithKline’s Q2 update on Wednesday, science chief Hal Barron is making the rounds to talk up the pharma giant’s late-stage strategy as the top execs continue to woo back a deeply skeptical investor group while pushing through a whole new R&D culture.

And that’s not easy, Barron is quick to note. He told the Financial Times:

I think that culture, to some extent, is as hard, in fact even harder, than doing the science.

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Aca­dia is mak­ing the best of it, but their lat­est PhI­II Nu­plazid study is a bust

Acadia’s late-stage program to widen the commercial prospects for Nuplazid has hit a wall. The biotech reported that their Phase III ENHANCE trial flat failed. And while they $ACAD did their best to cherry pick positive data wherever they can be found, this is a clear setback for the biotech.

With close to 400 patients enrolled, researchers said the drug flunked the primary endpoint as an adjunctive therapy for patients with an inadequate response to antipsychotic therapy. The p-value was an ugly 0.0940 on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, which the company called out as a positive trend.

Their shares slid 12% on the news, good for a $426 million hit on a $3.7 billion market cap at close.

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Some Big Phar­mas stepped up their game on da­ta trans­paren­cy — but which flunked the test?

The nonprofit Bioethics International has come out with their latest scorecard on data transparency among the big biopharmas in the industry — flagging a few standouts while spotlighting some laggards who are continuing to underperform.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit created a new set of standards with Yale School of Medicine and Stanford Law School to evaluate the track record on trial registration, results reporting, publication and data-sharing practice.

Busy Gilead crew throws strug­gling biotech a life­line, with some cash up­front and hun­dreds of mil­lions in biobucks for HIV deal

Durect $DRRX got a badly needed shot in the arm Monday morning as Gilead’s busy BD team lined up access to its extended-release platform tech for HIV and hepatitis B.

Gilead, a leader in the HIV sector, is paying a modest $25 million in cash for the right to jump on the platform at Durect, which has been using its technology to come up with an extended-release version of bupivacaine. The FDA rejected that in 2014, but Durect has been working on a comeback.

In­tec blitzed by PhI­II flop as lead pro­gram fails to beat Mer­ck­'s stan­dard com­bo for Parkin­son’s

Intec Pharma’s $NTEC lead drug slammed into a brick wall Monday morning. The small-cap Israeli biotech reported that its lead program — coming off a platform designed to produce a safer, more effective oral drug for Parkinson’s — failed the Phase III at the primary endpoint.

Researchers at Intec, which has already seen its share price collapse over the past few months, says that its Accordion Pill-Carbidopa/Levodopa failed to prove superior to Sinemet in reducing daily ‘off’ time. 

Cel­gene racks up third Ote­zla ap­proval, heat­ing up talks about who Bris­tol-My­ers will sell to

Whoever is taking Otezla off Bristol-Myers Squibb’s hands will have one more revenue stream to boast.

The drug — a rising star in Celgene’s pipeline that generated global sales of $1.6 billion last year — is now OK’d to treat oral ulcers associated with Behçet’s disease, a common symptom for a rare inflammatory disorder. This marks the third FDA approval for the PDE4 inhibitor since 2014, when it was greenlighted for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

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Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors.

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Apotex, though, has been a disaster ground. The manufacturer voluntarily yanked the ANDAs on 31 drugs — in late 2017 — after the FDA came across serious manufacturing deficiencies at their plants in India. A few days ago, the FDA made it official.

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