Boehringer In­gel­heim backs Max Planck spin­out in tak­ing a shot at tough class of can­cer tar­gets

Sci­en­tists have long known about tu­mor-as­so­ci­at­ed car­bo­hy­drate anti­gens — those ab­nor­mal sac­cha­rides that are abun­dant on can­cer cell sur­faces and feed them on — but their abil­i­ty to hide from the im­mune sys­tems means they have proved to be eva­sive tar­gets in im­muno-on­col­o­gy.

Two gly­co­sciences ex­perts at the Max Planck In­sti­tute in Ger­many be­lieved syn­the­siz­ing those tar­gets in the first place is key to crack­ing that prob­lem. They have now re­ceived a mod­est seed round to pur­sue that idea at their Berlin-based biotech spin­out, Taca­lyx.

Pe­ter See­berg­er, di­rec­tor at the MPI for Col­loids and In­ter­faces, worked with Oren Moscovitz to de­vel­op au­to­mat­ed gly­can as­sem­bly, which then al­lowed for tar­get­ed an­ti­body gen­er­a­tion.

Oren Moscovitz Max Planck

“The abil­i­ty to syn­the­size pure iso­lates us­ing sol­id phase syn­the­sis rep­re­sents an im­por­tant step for­ward and fa­cil­i­tates the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of spe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies and their sub­se­quent char­ac­ter­i­za­tion,” the com­pa­ny wrote on its web­site. “This ac­cess to gly­cans pre­vi­ous­ly in­ac­ces­si­ble in larg­er amounts is cen­tral to Taca­lyx’s ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Max Planck In­no­va­tion ap­proached Shire vet Pe­ter Son­der­mann al­most two years ago now about launch­ng a ven­ture. In an in­ter­view with End­points News, the CEO said with the help of in­vestors and the re­searchers he’s built a team of four and plans to push the head­count to 10 in a year or so.

While oth­ers have tried a tu­mor vac­cine ap­proach to in­duce im­mune re­spons­es to TACAs, Son­der­mann is con­vinced that a pas­sive im­munother­a­py — syn­thet­ic, clean an­ti­bod­ies gen­er­at­ed in a dif­fer­ent sys­tem — is need­ed in this con­text.

“In a cou­ple of in­di­ca­tions, from vac­ci­na­tion stud­ies, that there seems to be a pret­ty nice cor­re­la­tion be­tween an­ti­body titer and prog­no­sis for the pa­tients,” he said. “So if pa­tients have a high an­ti­body titer against spe­cif­ic TACAs, they have al­so much bet­ter prog­no­sis than pa­tients that do not de­vel­op a titer.”

So far the biotech has elect­ed sev­er­al po­ten­tial TACA tar­gets for fur­ther pre­clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion and con­sult­ed some CROs who can help with the an­ti­bod­ies. The goal is to have one lead struc­ture ready for the clin­ic by the time they burn through the ini­tial fund­ing.

“Be­sides es­tab­lish­ing the com­pa­ny and our dis­cov­ery plat­form for lead gen­er­a­tion, we will use these funds to ex­plore rel­e­vant TACA bi­ol­o­gy in de­tail,” he added in a state­ment.

Boehringer In­gel­heim Ven­ture Fund co-led the €7 mil­lion fund­ing with Kur­ma Part­ners, joined by Id­in­vest Part­ners, High-Tech Grün­der­fonds, co­par­i­on, and Creathor Ven­tures.

Its par­ent drug­mak­er has laid eyes on this class of tar­gets for at least two years. In 2017, the Boehringer In­gel­heim inked a dis­cov­ery al­liance with New­ton, MA-based biotech Siam­ab in search of an­ti­bod­ies hit­ting one spe­cif­ic, but un­named, TACA, with an op­tion to add a sec­ond.

Siam­ab was bagged by a mys­te­ri­ous large play­er last month in a deal worth up to $202 mil­lion.

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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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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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.

David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Head­ed to PhII: Al­lo­gene CEO David Chang com­pletes a pos­i­tive ear­ly snap­shot of their off-the-shelf CAR-T pi­o­neer

Allogene CEO David Chang has completed the upbeat first portrait of the biotech’s off-the-shelf CAR-T contender ALLO-501 at virtual ASCO today, keeping all eyes on a drug that will now try to go on to replace the first-wave personalized pioneers he helped create.

The overall response rate outlined in Allogene’s abstract for treatment-resistant patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma slipped a little from the leadup, but if you narrow the patient profile to treatment-naïve patients — removing the 3 who had previous CAR-T therapy who didn’t respond, leaving 16 — the ORR lands at 75% with a 44% complete response rate. And 9 of the 12 responders remained in response at the data cutoff, offering a glimpse on durability that still has a long way to go before it can be completely nailed down.

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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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