Black­stone antes $250M on its first big biotech bet, fo­cused on a car­dio drug spun out of No­var­tis

Five months af­ter Black­stone bought out Clarus with a plan to dive deep in­to the life sci­ences field, the glob­al pri­vate eq­ui­ty play­er has lined up its first big bet.

Black­stone teamed with No­var­tis to launch a new car­dio biotech — Cam­bridge, MA-based An­thos Ther­a­peu­tics — that will be helmed by one of the phar­ma gi­ant’s for­mer ex­ecs and backed with a mon­ster $250 mil­lion launch round.

No­var­tis is spin­ning out an an­ti­co­ag­u­lant dubbed MAA868, an an­ti­body di­rect­ed at Fac­tor XI and XIa and tar­get­ed at the “in­trin­sic co­ag­u­la­tion path­way.” Black­stone Life Sci­ences is pro­vid­ing the cash and is lay­ing out the strat­e­gy, with a plan to tack­le throm­bot­ic dis­or­ders. No­var­tis is ex­chang­ing a mi­nor­i­ty eq­ui­ty in­ter­est in the start­up for rights to the drug — an in­creas­ing­ly pop­u­lar gam­bit for big phar­mas, which of­ten finds them­selves with more pro­grams than they can bud­get for. 

Car­dio is one of the tough­est fields in bio­phar­ma R&D. These drugs are ex­pen­sive to de­vel­op and ul­tra-high risk, as No­var­tis knows all too well from its own set­backs in the field. The big idea here is that this new drug that Black­stone is bet­ting on can pre­vent a host of dis­eases with­out in­creas­ing the risk of bleed­ing, which is no easy task.

NI­BR chief Jay Brad­ner blessed the deal, prais­ing the mis­sion and adding that Black­stone Life Sci­ences has the “nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence and has as­sem­bled a first-class team at An­thos to dri­ve the fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of MAA868.”

Jonathan Free­man

In­dus­try vet­er­an John Glasspool, a for­mer leader of No­var­tis’ car­dio­vas­cu­lar fran­chise who al­so had a stint at Bax­al­ta ahead of the Shire buy­out, will take charge as An­thos CEO, while Black­stone se­nior ad­vis­er and An­thos co-founder Jonathan Free­man is com­ing on as COO.

Black­stone Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and for­mer chief of Ari­ad Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Paris Panayiotopou­los is a found­ing mem­ber of An­thos’ board, while No­var­tis’ head of car­dio­vas­cu­lar and me­tab­o­lism trans­la­tion­al med­i­cine Craig Bas­son is on the com­pa­ny’s sci­en­tif­ic ad­vi­so­ry board.

 


Im­age: John Glasspool, Paris Panayiotopou­los. DAL­COR, ARI­AD

Sanofi brings in 4 new ex­ec­u­tives in con­tin­ued shake-up, as vac­cines and con­sumer health chief head out the door

In the middle of Sanofi’s multi-pronged race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, David Loew, the head of their sprawling vaccines unit, is leaving – part of the final flurry of moves in the French giant’ months-long corporate shuffle that will give them new-look leadership under new CEO Paul Hudson.

The company also said today that Alan Main, the head of their consumer healthcare unit, is out, and they named 4 executives to fill new or newly vacated positions, 3 of whom come from both outside both Sanofi and from Pharma.

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As­traZeneca trum­pets the 'mo­men­tous' da­ta they found for Tagris­so in an ad­ju­vant set­ting for NSCLC — but many of the ex­perts aren’t cheer­ing along

AstraZeneca is rolling out the big guns this evening to provide a salute to their ADAURA data on Tagrisso at ASCO.

Cancer R&D chief José Baselga calls the disease-free survival data for their drug in an adjuvant setting of early stage, epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated NSCLC patients following surgery “momentous.” Roy Herbst, the principal investigator out of Yale, calls it “transformative.”

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Pablo Legorreta, founder and CEO of Royalty Pharma AG, speaks at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Cap­i­tal­iz­ing Pablo: The world’s biggest drug roy­al­ty buy­er is go­ing pub­lic. And the low-key CEO di­vulges a few se­crets along the way

Pablo Legorreta is one of the most influential players in biopharma you likely never heard of.

Over the last 24 years, Legorreta’s Royalty Pharma group has become, by its own reckoning, the biggest buyer of drug royalties in the world. The CEO and founder has bought up a stake in a lengthy list of the world’s biggest drug franchises, spending $18 billion in the process — $2.2 billion last year alone. And he’s become one of the best-paid execs in the industry, reaping $28 million from the cash flow last year while reserving 20% of the cash flow, less expenses, for himself.

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Ab­b­Vie wins an ap­proval in uter­ine fi­broid-as­so­ci­at­ed heavy bleed­ing. Are ri­vals My­ovant and Ob­sE­va far be­hind?

Women expel on average about 2 to 3 tablespoons of blood during their time of the month. But with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding is typical — a third of a cup or more. Drugmakers have been working on oral therapies to try and stem the flow, and as expected, AbbVie and their partners at Neurocrine Biosciences are the first to make it across the finish line.

Known chemically as elagolix, the drug is already approved as a treatment for endometriosis under the brand name Orilissa. It targets the GnRH receptor to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead leas­es part­ner rights to TIG­IT, PD-1 in a $2B deal with Ar­cus. Now comes the hard part

Gilead CEO Dan O’Day has brokered his way to a PD-1 and lined up a front row seat in the TIGIT arena, inking a deal worth close to $2 billion to align the big biotech closely with Terry Rosen’s Arcus. And $375 million of that comes upfront, with cash for the buy-in plus equity, along with $400 million for R&D and $1.22 billion in reserve to cover opt-in payments and milestones..

Hotly rumored for weeks, the 2 players have formalized a 10-year alliance that starts with rights to the PD-1, zimberelimab. O’Day also has first dibs on TIGIT and 2 other leading programs, agreeing to an opt-in fee ranging from $200 million to $275 million on each. There’s $500 million in potential TIGIT milestones on US regulatory events — likely capped by an approval — if Gilead partners on it and the stars align on the data. And there’s another $150 million opt-in payments for the rest of the Arcus pipeline.

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Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Getty Images)

Sanofi CEO Paul Hud­son has $23B burn­ing a hole in his pock­et. And here are some hints on how he plans to spend that

Sanofi has reaped $11.1 billion after selling off a big chunk of its Regeneron stock at $515 a share. And now everyone on the M&A side of the business is focused on how CEO Paul Hudson plans to spend it.

After getting stung in France for some awkward politicking — suggesting the US was in the front of the line for Sanofi’s vaccines given American financial support for their work, versus little help from European powers — Hudson now has the much more popular task of managing a major cash cache to pull off something in the order of a big bolt-on. Or two.

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Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (YouTube)

Backed by BAR­DA, Mer­ck jumps in­to Covid-19: buy­ing out a vac­cine, part­ner­ing on an­oth­er and adding an­tivi­ral to the mix

Merck execs are making a triple play in a sudden leap into the R&D campaign against Covid-19. And they have more BARDA cash backing them up on the move.

Tuesday morning the pharma giant simultaneously announced plans to buy an Austrian biotech that has been working on a preclinical vaccine candidate, added a collaboration on another vaccine with the nonprofit IAVI and inked a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on an early-stage antiviral.

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Daphne Koller, insitro CEO (insitro)

Daphne Koller’s AI start­up gets $143M in new cash from a16z, oth­ers

Biotech is becoming saturated with machine learning companies promising to reinvent and hasten drug development, but few, if any, have amassed the war chest Daphne Koller has.

Entering Tuesday, the former Stanford professor, MacArthur Fellowship recipient, Coursera founder and chief computing officer of Google’s secretive anti-aging biotech Calico had raised $100 million for her AI startup insitro. Now she’s raised $143 million more.

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As­traZeneca’s $7B ADC suc­ceeds where Roche failed, im­prov­ing sur­vival in gas­tric can­cer

Another day, another win for Enhertu.

The antibody-drug conjugate AstraZeneca promised up-to $7 billion to partner on has had a quite a few months, beginning with splashy results in a Phase II breast cancer trial, a rapid approval and, earlier this month, breakthrough designations in both non-small cell lung cancer and gastric cancer.

Now, at ASCO, the British pharma and their Japanese partner, Daiichi Sankyo, have shown off the data that led to the gastric cancer designation, which they’ll take back to the FDA. In a pivotal, 187-person Phase II trial, Enhertu shrunk tumors in 42.9% of third-line patients with HER2-positive stomach cancer, compared with 12.5% in a control arm where doctors prescribed their choice of therapy. Progression-free survival was 5.4 months for Enhertu compared to 3.5 months for the control.