Black Di­a­mond rais­es an­oth­er $85M to bring new onco­gene ap­proach in­to clin­ic

Near­ly a year af­ter rais­ing $85 mil­lion from in­vestors, Black Di­a­mond Ther­a­peu­tics has raised an­oth­er $85 mil­lion to help push its al­losteric ther­a­pies in­to the clin­ic in the next few months. The Se­ries C round was led by Box­er Cap­i­tal.

Black Di­a­mond launched last De­cem­ber as the first com­pa­ny to come out of Ver­sant’s Ridge­line dis­cov­ery en­gine in Basel. They had two for­mer de­vel­op­ers of the can­cer drug Tarce­va as co-founders in David Ep­stein and Eliz­a­beth Buck and a rel­a­tive­ly new ap­proach to on­col­o­gy. With­in a month of their full launch, they al­so had $105 mil­lion in back­ing.

Eliz­a­beth Buck

Al­losteric ther­a­pies are es­sen­tial­ly like oth­er onco­ge­net­ic ther­a­pies, such as ki­nase drugs, that in­hib­it a pro­tein fu­el­ing can­cer. But rather than try to in­hib­it the pro­tein straight-on, these ther­a­pies tar­get can­cers that emerge from mu­ta­tions in net­works, or an “en­sem­ble,” of do­mains that af­fect each oth­er from a dis­tance.

For can­cer, that can mean a mu­ta­tion some­where away from the main bind­ing site of, say, the HER2 re­cep­tor can cause changes to the en­tire pro­tein and fu­el tu­mors.

Black Di­a­mond has spent the last year map­ping these al­losteric mu­ta­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly around the well-known onco­genes EGFR and HER2. They’ve pub­lished pa­pers sug­gest­ing that the in­hibitors for these pro­teins have failed in some pa­tients be­cause the can­cer-caus­ing mu­ta­tion is not at the main bind­ing site, but rather an al­losteric mu­ta­tion else­where.

David Ep­stein

Now they are ready to head in­to the clin­ic. They plan to start a Phase I/II tri­al of their lead drug BDTX-189 in the first half of 2020. They have not said which tar­get it hits, but the pipeline on their web­site lists the HER2 pro­gram as the on­ly one that’s reached the IND stage. The EGFR pro­gram ap­pears not far be­hind, fol­lowed by three more un­named ones.

On top of the Box­er Group, new in­vestors in­clude Welling­ton Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny, BVF Part­ners, Deer­field Man­age­ment, Cas­din Cap­i­tal, and Lo­gos Cap­i­tal. Pre-ex­ist­ing in­vestors who joined the new round in­clude Ver­sant Ven­tures, New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Nex­tech In­vest, In­vus, Per­cep­tive Ad­vi­sors, City Hill Ven­tures, and Roche Ven­ture Fund.

In ad­di­tion to the fund­ing, Black Di­a­mond al­so an­nounced to­day that CRISPR Ther­a­peu­tics CEO Samarth Kulka­rni is join­ing the board of di­rec­tors.

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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Yong Dai, Frontera Therapeutics CEO

Scoop: Lit­tle-known Or­biMed-backed biotech clos­es $160M round to start gene ther­a­py tri­al

Frontera Therapeutics, a China and US biotech, has closed a $160 million Series B and received regulatory clearance to test its first gene therapy stateside, Endpoints News has learned.

Led by the largest shareholder, OrbiMed, the biotech has secured $195 million total since its September 2019 founding, according to an email reviewed by Endpoints. The lead AAV gene therapy program is for an undisclosed rare eye disease, according to the source.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

EU to launch vac­cine de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ship with Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries

While European companies, including BioNTech, are focused on increasing vaccine access to African countries by setting up vaccine manufacturing facilities, the European Union is looking westward to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speaking at a press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pédro Sanchez, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is launching a new initiative for vaccines and medicines manufacturing in Latin America, to get drugs to Latin America and the Caribbean faster.

DEM BioPharma CEO David Donabedian (L) and executive chair Jan Skvarka

Long­wood sets an­oth­er 'don't eat me' biotech in­to gear with help of for­mer Tril­li­um CEO Jan Skvar­ka

Jonathan Weissman and team are out with a cancer-fighting biotech riding the appetite for those so-called “don’t eat me” and “eat me” signals.

The scientific co-founder — alongside fellow Whitehead Institute colleague Kipp Weiskopf and Stanford biologist Michael Bassik — has launched DEM BioPharma with incubator Longwood Fund and a crop of other investors.

In all, the nascent, 10-employee biotech has $70 million to bankroll hematology- and solid tumor-based programs, including a lead asset that could enter human trials in two to three years, CEO David Donabedian told Endpoints News.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.