Boehringer In­gel­heim-backed Aba­los toss­es hat in­to packed on­colyt­ic virus ring

Are­navirus­es. They’re small, they’re packed with tiny stolen ri­bo­somes that re­sem­ble grains of sand, they’re re­spon­si­ble for 300,000 to 500,000 hu­man in­fec­tions in West Africa each year, and, if a new Ger­man biotech has their way, they are go­ing to one day treat tu­mors.

Aba­los Ther­a­peu­tics launched to­day with $12 mil­lion in fund­ing to de­vel­op are­navirus­es it hopes can be used in im­munother­a­py for can­cer. The fund­ing was co-led by Boehringer In­gel­heim Ven­ture Fund (BIVF) and Gru­en­der­fonds Ruhr, with par­tic­i­pa­tion from NRW.BANK and High-Tech Gru­en­der­fonds (HT­GF).

CEO Mar­cus Kost­ka

Aba­los Ther­a­peu­tics CSO Jörg Vollmer told End­points News the plat­form stood out for its nim­ble­ness com­pared to oth­er on­colyt­ic virus ap­proach­es.

“We use the nat­ur­al adap­tion pos­si­bil­i­ty and prop­er­ties of the virus adapt­ed to the tu­mor cell,” Vollmer said. “So we are not re­strict­ed, re­al­ly.”

Aba­los is en­ter­ing an in­creas­ing­ly crowd­ed field of small biotechs and phar­ma gi­ants try­ing to lever­age virus­es and the body’s nat­ur­al de­fense sys­tem against them to treat can­cer. Over the last 3 years, As­traZeneca, Mer­ck, Boehringer In­gel­heim, Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and J&J have inked deals of var­i­ous sizes with on­colyt­ic virus biotechs, with J&J putting up the largest fig­ure at $1.04 bil­lion.

Where­as im­munother­a­pies such as CAR-T re-en­gi­neer im­mune cells to see and tar­get tu­mors, like out­fit­ting a fight­er jet with in­frared or a sub with radar, on­colyt­ic virus­es work by light­ing up the tu­mor cells tar­gets. A virus that is de­signed to prop­a­gate pri­mar­i­ly through can­cer cells is in­ject­ed in­to a pa­tient. The body then car­ries out its nat­ur­al im­mune re­sponse to the virus, which hap­pens to be in can­cer cells.

Un­like oth­er on­colyt­ic virus­es — such as the her­pes-virus-based T-Vec from Am­gen, the first such ther­a­py ap­proved in the US — are­navirus­es don’t them­selves kill cells. Like in the Junin and Las­sa in­fec­tions that are­navirus­es can cause in hu­mans, the dam­age comes from the body’s im­mune re­sponse. In a po­ten­tial im­munother­a­py, that re­sponse would be di­rect­ed to can­cer cells.

Kost­ka told End­points News their plat­form was not anti­gen-spe­cif­ic and thus could be used to tar­get a wide range of can­cers.

Like much of vi­rother­a­py re­search, their work is pre­clin­i­cal. They said they are aim­ing for an IND in three years.

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck pulls Keytru­da in SCLC af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed nod. Is the FDA get­ting tough on drug­mak­ers that don't hit their marks?

In what could be an early shot in the battle against drugmakers that whiff on confirmatory studies to support accelerated approvals, the FDA ordered Bristol Myers Squibb late last year to give up Opdivo’s approval in SCLC. Now, Merck is next on the firing line — are we seeing the FDA buckling down on post-marketing offenders?

Merck has withdrawn its marketing approval for PD-(L)1 inhibitor Keytruda in metastatic small cell lung cancer as part of what it describes as an “industry-wide evaluation” by the FDA of drugs that do not meet the post-marketing checkpoints on which their accelerated nods were based, the company said Monday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

The 2021 top 100 bio­phar­ma in­vestors: As the pan­dem­ic hit and IPOs boomed, VCs swung in­to ac­tion like nev­er be­fore

The global pandemic may have roiled economies, killed hundreds of thousands and throttled entire industries, but the only effect it had on biopharma venture investing was to help turbocharge the field to giddy new heights.

Below you’ll find the new top 100 venture investors in the industry, ranked by the number of deals they were publicly involved in, as tracked by DealForma chief Chris Dokomajilar. The numbers master then calculated the estimated amount of money they put into each deal — divvying up the cash by the number of players — to indicate how they managed their syndicates.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Antoine Papiernik, Sofinnova managing director (Business Wire)

Sofinno­va Part­ners stays fo­cused on late-stage deals with a new, $540M crossover fund

One of Europe’s most high-profile biopharma investors is getting $540 million to invest in new crossover deals for late-stage companies.

The Paris-based VC says the fresh Sofinnova Crossover Fund raise positions them as the “largest crossover investor in Europe dedicated to late-stage biopharma and medtech investments.”

They got a leg up in France after winning a special “Tibi” designation from the French government, giving them access to a pool of €6 billion that helped them gain an edge with institutional investors. Since they were founded close to 50 years ago, the venture group has backed more than 500 companies and currently has more than €2 billion under management.

Hal Barron, Endpoints UKBIO19

GSK, Vir's hopes for a Covid-19 an­ti­body fall flat in NIH 'mas­ter pro­to­col' with no ben­e­fit in hos­pi­tal­ized pa­tients

GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology were hopeful that one of their partnered antibodies would carve out a win after getting the invite to a major NIH study in hospitalized Covid-19 patients. But just like Eli Lilly, the pair’s drug couldn’t hit the mark, and now they’ll be left to take a hard look at the game plan.

The NIH has shut down enrollment for GSK and Vir’s antibody VIR-7831 in its late-stage ACTIV-3 trial after the drug showed negligible effect in achieving sustained recovery in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, the partners said Wednesday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

As Brain­Storm con­tin­ues to tout ‘clear sig­nal’ on ALS drug, the FDA of­fers a rare pub­lic slap­down on the da­ta

A little more than a week after BrainStorm acknowledged that regulators at the FDA had informed them that the biotech needed more data before it could expect to gain an approval for its ALS treatment NurOwn — while still touting a “clear signal” of efficacy and not ruling out an application — the agency has decided to clarify the record in a most unusual statement.

The FDA statement amounts to a straight slap own, offering a different set of efficacy numbers from the company’s public presentation last November and ruling out any chance of statistical significance.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

In­tro­duc­ing End­points FDA+, our new pre­mi­um week­ly reg­u­la­to­ry news re­port led by Zachary Bren­nan

CRLs. 483s. CBER, CDER and RWE. For biopharma professionals, these acronyms command attention because of the fundamental role FDA plays in drug development. Now Endpoints is doubling down on regulatory coverage, and launching a weekly report focusing on developments out of White Oak, with analysis and insight into what it all means.

Coverage will be led by our new senior editor, Zachary Brennan. He joins Endpoints from POLITICO, where he covered pharma. Prior to that he was the managing editor for Regulatory Focus, a news publication from the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society.

Eli Lil­ly claims suc­cess in a new JAK in­di­ca­tion: hair loss

Over the last decade, drugmakers have proven JAK inhibitors can treat a smattering of immune-related diseases ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to Covid-19. Now Eli Lilly has pulled out a new one.

Lilly and its biotech partner Incyte announced Wednesday that their JAK inhibitor baricitinib effectively regrew patients’ hair in a Phase III trial for alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that can cause sudden, severe and patchy hair loss. Lilly didn’t break down the results from the 546-patient trial, but the primary endpoint was improvement on a standard score for alopecia symptoms.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

CEO David Campbell (Janux)

Fresh off $1B+ Mer­ck deal, Janux locks down first pri­vate fundraise for its T cell en­gagers

Janux Therapeutics had kept a relatively low profile since being founded back in 2017 but burst onto the scene late last year when Merck plunked down more than $1 billion in promised milestones for its T cell engagers. Now, less than three months later, the small biotech has clinched its first round of private funding led by some prominent backers.

As it prepares its first programs for INDs, Janux completed a $56 million Series A on Wednesday morning, with Jay Lichter’s Avalon Ventures joining forces with new investors OrbiMed and RA Capital Management to fund the company. Janux will use the cash to primarily advance its T cell engagers targeting PSMA and TROP2, which are expected to hit the clinic in the first and second quarters of 2022, respectively.

Rachel Haurwitz, Caribou CEO (Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A Jen­nifer Doud­na-launched up­start nabs $115M for off-the-shelf CAR-Ts

There is no shortage of biotechs pursuing off-the-shelf CAR-Ts, a so-called Holy Grail in oncology R&D. Now, less than a month after teaming up with AbbVie, a California player launched by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna has returned to the venture well, scooping up a big crossover round to help it along.

Caribou Biosciences took the wraps off a $115 million Series C on Wednesday morning, bringing their total raise to around $157 million, CEO Rachel Haurwitz said.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.