Randy Schatzman, Bolt CEO (Bolt Biotherapeutics)

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics nabs $93.5M to push Provenge in­ven­tor's new idea deep­er in the clin­ic

A can­cer-fight­ing con­cept from the in­ven­tor of the first can­cer vac­cine is near­ing prime time, and its biotech de­vel­op­er has re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant new in­fu­sion of cash to get it there.

Bolt Bio­ther­a­peu­tics an­nounced a $93.5 mil­lion Se­ries C round led by Sofinno­va In­vest­ments and joined by more than 9 oth­ers, in­clud­ing Pfiz­er Ven­tures and RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment. That mon­ey will go to­ward push­ing the San Fran­cis­co biotech’s plat­form of in­nate im­mune-boost­ing war­heads through its first tri­al on metasta­t­ic sol­id tu­mors and in­to sev­er­al more.

Randy Schatz­man

It’s “a fair­ly el­e­gant but sim­ple mol­e­cule,” CEO Randy Schatz­man told End­points News. “It’s ba­si­cal­ly an off-the-shelf ther­a­peu­tic that physi­cians can call on to treat their pa­tients with­out all the per­son­al­iza­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that many of the I/O ap­proach­es have to­day.”

The ex­per­i­men­tal drug is what Bolt calls an im­mune-stim­u­lat­ing an­ti­body con­ju­gate. It’s based on a con­cept from Stan­ford im­mu­nol­o­gist Edgar En­gle­man, who in­vent­ed the first can­cer vac­cine in Provenge, a treat­ment for prostate can­cer. That vac­cine in­volves a mul­ti-step process where in­nate im­mune cells called den­drit­ic cells are ex­tract­ed, ex­posed to a pro­tein from the pa­tients’ own tu­mors (as you would ex­pose the im­mune sys­tem to a vi­ral or bac­te­r­i­al pro­tein in a tra­di­tion­al vac­cine) and then re­in­fused.

Bolt’s plat­form is de­signed to di­rect­ly ac­ti­vate den­drit­ic cells around tu­mors with­out the need for re­moval, treat­ment and re-in­fu­sion. The ther­a­py is an an­ti­body drug con­ju­gate sim­i­lar to those pro­duced by Seat­tle Ge­net­ics, ADC Ther­a­peu­tics, and Im­munomedics, each of which con­tain an an­ti­body to guide the ther­a­py like a war­head to the tu­mor. The dif­fer­ence is that in­stead of strap­ping a chem­i­cal to the an­ti­body that will kill cells in the area, Bolt’s drug has an ag­o­nist that will bind to re­cep­tors on the den­drit­ic cells and ac­ti­vate them to at­tack the tu­mor.

Edgar En­gle­man

If it works, the drug would turn the en­vi­ron­ment around the tu­mor from an im­muno-sup­pres­sive to one that could not on­ly kill the tu­mors once but pre­vent re­cur­rence. Their first can­di­date us­es a Her­ceptin biosim­i­lar to tar­get HER2, but in the­o­ry, Schatz­man said, it should work with an an­ti­body tar­get­ed at any onco­gene and Bolt is ex­plor­ing those op­tions, both in­ter­nal­ly and with part­ner­ships.

In Feb­ru­ary, five years af­ter the com­pa­ny’s foun­da­tion, they launched their first tri­al, putting the drug — known as BDC-1001 — in­to a Phase I/II tri­al for metasta­t­ic tu­mors that are HER2+, in­clud­ing gas­tric and breast can­cer. That tri­al will test the drug both as a sin­gle-agent ther­a­py and in com­bi­na­tion with Mer­ck’s Keytru­da. The idea is that ac­ti­vat­ing the im­mune sys­tem in two dif­fer­ent ways might make for a more ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

De­spite some ear­ly con­cerns, Schatz­man says, the com­pa­ny has not seen any de­lays in that tri­al from Covid-19.

Af­ter the first da­ta emerge from the Phase I/II tri­al, the com­pa­ny will move in­to tri­als specif­i­cal­ly for gas­tric and breast can­cer, look­ing to see if it can not on­ly clear can­cers ini­tial­ly but al­so, by keep­ing the im­mune sys­tem on guard, ward off re­cur­rence, an event that can come quick­ly for pa­tients with these late-stage tu­mors.

”We’re go­ing to see some quick an­swers in go­ing past what is the cur­rent stan­dard of care,” Schatz­man said. “I’d like to think it will take a long time to know where the end of this is, be­cause in that sense, we’ll have been very ef­fec­tive at treat­ing these pa­tients.”

Up­dat­ed: FDA re­mains silent on or­phan drug ex­clu­siv­i­ty af­ter last year's court loss

Since losing a controversial court case over orphan drug exclusivity last year, the FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development has remained entirely silent on orphan exclusivity for any product approved since last November, leaving many sponsors in limbo on what to expect.

That silence means that for more than 70 orphan-designated indications for more than 60 products, OOPD has issued no public determination on the seven-year orphan exclusivity in the Orange Book, and no new listings of orphan exclusivity appear in OOPD’s searchable database, as highlighted recently by George O’Brien, a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, DC office.

Big week for Alzheimer’s da­ta; As­traZeneca buys cell ther­a­py start­up; Dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics hits a pay­er wall; and more

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Am­gen, years be­hind ri­vals, says PhI obe­si­ty drug shows dura­bil­i­ty signs

While NBC ran “The Biggest Loser” for 17 seasons, deemed toxic by critics for the reality show’s punishing exercise and diet upheavals, researchers in pharmaceutical labs have been attempting to create prescription drugs that induce weight loss — and one pharma betting it can require less frequent dosing is out with a new crop of data.

Amgen was relatively late to the game compared to its approved competitor Novo Nordisk and green light-approaching rival Eli Lilly. But early data suggested Amgen’s AMG 133 led to a 14.5% weight reduction in the first few months of dosing, buoying shares earlier this fall, and now the California pharma is out with its first batch of durability data showing that figure fell slightly to 11.2% about 150 days after the last dose. Amgen presented at the 20th World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease on Saturday afternoon.

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Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News

As mon­ey pours in­to dig­i­tal ther­a­peu­tics, in­sur­ance cov­er­age crawls



Talk therapy didn’t help Lily with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. But a video game did.

As the 10-year-old zooms through icy waters and targets flying creatures on the snow-capped planet Frigidus, she builds attention skills, thanks to Akili Interactive Labs’ video game EndeavorRx. She’s now less anxious and scattered, allowing her to stay on a low dose of ADHD medication, according to her mom Violet Vu.

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Eli Lil­ly’s Alzheimer’s drug clears more amy­loid ear­ly than Aduhelm in first-ever head-to-head. Will it mat­ter?

Ahead of the FDA’s decision on Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug donanemab in February, the Big Pharma is dropping a first cut of data from one of the more interesting trials — but less important in a regulatory sense — at an Alzheimer’s conference in San Francisco.

In the unblinded 148-person study, Eli Lilly pitted its drug against Aduhelm, Biogen’s drug that won FDA approval but lost Medicare coverage outside of clinical trials. Notably, the study didn’t look at clinical outcomes, but rather the clearance of amyloid, a protein whose buildup is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the brain.

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Bay­er starts work on $43M+ ex­pan­sion of OTC man­u­fac­tur­ing site in Penn­syl­va­nia

German pharma giant Bayer will be looking to make a significant investment into one of its US plants that produces over-the-counter drugs.

Bayer announced that it will spend $43.6 million to expand its facility in Myerstown, PA, a small town east of Harrisburg. Bayer plans to increase the site by 70,000 square feet and will have room for the installation of eight packaging lines and an area to install rooftop solar panels. The project is expected to be completed by 2025 and will add around 50 to 75 jobs.

US month­ly costs for biosim­i­lars 'sub­stan­tial­ly high­er' than Ger­many or Switzer­land, JA­MA re­search finds

As the global biologics market is expected to hit nearly the half-trillion-dollar mark this year, new JAMA research points to the importance of timely biosimilar entry, particularly as fewer biosimilars are entering the US than in Europe, and as monthly treatment costs for biosimilars were “substantially higher” in the US compared with Germany and Switzerland.

Among the three countries, biosimilar market share at launch was highest in Germany, but increased at the fastest rate in the US, the authors from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law wrote in JAMA Network Open today.

Kirk Myers is shown in a still image from a new film series showcasing the efforts of HIV advocates funded by Gilead.

Gilead spot­lights HIV projects and the com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers dri­ving them in new mi­ni-doc­u­men­tary films

Gilead is going behind the scenes of some of the HIV initiatives it funds through grants in a new film series narrated by the people helming the projects.

The first four films and leaders come from across the US — Arianna Lint in Florida and Puerto Rico, Cleve Jones in San Francisco, June Gipson in Mississippi and Kirk Myers in Texas. Their HIV-focused efforts range from addressing unmet needs of the transgender community to delivering social services and high-quality health care in underserved communities.

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EMA pulls an opi­oid from the 1950s used to treat dry cough

The European Medicines Agency said Friday that it’s pulling from all European markets pholcodine-containing medicines, which are an opioid used in adults and children for the treatment of dry cough and in combo with other drugs as a treatment for cold and flu.

The decision to pull the medicines comes as the EMA points to the results from the recent ALPHO study, which show that use of pholcodine during the 12 months preceding anesthesia is linked to a risk of an anaphylactic reaction related to the neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) used (with an adjusted OR of 4.2, and a 95% confidence interval of 2.5 to 6.9).