Brii Bio backs in­fec­tious dis­ease start­up while ink­ing deal for its lead TB drug, dou­bling down on an­tibi­otics

Zhi Hong

Al­most two years af­ter leav­ing GSK to launch Brii Bio with a whop­ping $260 mil­lion in fund­ing, Zhi Hong is see­ing the trans-Pa­cif­ic in­fec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist he set out to build take shape.

“Our pipeline is com­ing to­geth­er,” he told End­points News, with 12 part­nered as­sets plus some in­ter­nal pro­grams.

As its lat­est part­ner, AN2 Ther­a­peu­tics, comes in­to the lime­light for the first time with a $12 mil­lion seed round, so is Brii’s plans in the an­tibi­otics space. Brii has ob­tained Chi­na rights to AN2’s an­tibac­te­r­i­al tar­get­ing my­cobac­teri­um tu­ber­cu­lo­sis for mul­ti-drug re­sis­tant TB, which it says is in the clin­i­cal stage.

Brii has al­so joined the syn­di­cate along­side Moun­tain Group Part­ners, Ad­ju­vant Cap­i­tal and BioRock Ven­tures — an in­vest-and-li­cense ap­proach that was al­so seen in pre­vi­ous­ly an­nounced deals with Qpex Bio­phar­ma and Ar­ti­zan Bio­sciences.

“The trio of part­ner­ships has al­most ze­ro over­lap­ping when it comes to the use of an­tibi­otics,” Hong not­ed.

While Qpex’s port­fo­lio of an­tibi­otics is en­gi­neered to fight high­ly re­sis­tant, gram-neg­a­tive pathogens with “crit­i­cal needs” for treat­ment ac­cord­ing to the WHO, Ar­ti­zan boasts of a unique mech­a­nism by which it iden­ti­fies harm­ful bac­te­ria — then specif­i­cal­ly takes them out with­out the “col­lat­er­al dam­age of typ­i­cal an­tibi­otics,” Hong said.

While Brii waits for — and aids — its col­lab­o­ra­tors to pro­duce proof-of-con­cept da­ta, the biotech’s clin­i­cal team is fo­cused on ad­vanc­ing a po­ten­tial he­pati­tis B cure. Both came from deals an­nounced late last year.

Hav­ing re­cent­ly be­gun a Phase Ib/IIa study for the im­munother­a­py from VBI Vac­cines, they ex­pect to gar­ner ini­tial re­sults by the end of next year. Be­fore that they should hear back from Vir, George Scan­gos’ new­ly pub­lic start­up, on its own Phase I/II of the RNAi as­set.

Bei­jing R&D Cen­ter, Brii Bio

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

That gives them about a year be­fore switch­ing fo­cus to an­tibi­otics and dou­ble the head­count to around 80 — 60 in Bei­jing, where it has built an R&D cen­ter, and 20 in Hong’s home base of Durham, North Car­oli­na.

“You’re not go­ing to go to Chi­na overnight,” he said. “Chi­na’s reg­u­la­to­ry process­es, though it’s im­proved, can take six to nine months. So that gives you some time to build up a team.”

In tar­get­ing in­fec­tious dis­ease, and es­sen­tial­ly swear­ing off on­col­o­gy, Hong is clear about eye­ing a field where vol­ume mat­ters, which can be huge in a coun­try like Chi­na. And there is at least one more dis­ease area — one as­so­ci­at­ed with an ex­pand­ing mid­dle class, ur­ban­iza­tion and an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion — that he says Brii will soon ink an­oth­er pact in.

“So we are mov­ing in­to one non-in­fec­tious dis­ease area, and that’s prob­a­bly it,” he said. “We don’t want to be too frag­ment­ed.”

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Fangliang Zhang (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The big mon­ey: Poised to make drug R&D his­to­ry, a Chi­na biotech un­veils uni­corn rac­ing am­bi­tions in a bid to raise $350M-plus on Nas­daq

Almost exactly three years after Shanghai-based Legend came out of nowhere to steal the show at ASCO with jaw-dropping data on their BCMA-targeted CAR-T for multiple myeloma, the little player with Big Pharma connections is taking a giant step toward making it big on Wall Street. And this time they want to seal the deal on a global rep after staking out a unicorn valuation in what’s turned out to be a bull market for biotech IPOs — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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President Donald Trump (left) and Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed (Alex Brandon, AP Images)

White House names fi­nal­ists for Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed — with 5 ex­pect­ed names and one no­table omis­sion

A month after word first broke of the Trump Administration’s plan to rapidly accelerate the development and production of a Covid-19 vaccine, the White House has selected the five vaccine candidates they consider most likely to succeed, The New York Times reported.

Most of the names in the plan, known as Operation Warp Speed, will come as little surprise to those who have watched the last four months of vaccine developments: Moderna, which was the first vaccine to reach humans and is now the furthest along of any US effort; J&J, which has not gone into trials but received around $500 million in funding from BARDA earlier this year; the joint AstraZeneca-Oxford venture which was granted $1.2 billion from BARDA two weeks ago; Pfizer, which has been working with the mRNA biotech BioNTech; and Merck, which just entered the race and expects to put their two vaccine candidates into humans later this year.

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Credit: AP Images

Covid-19 roundup: BAR­DA sup­ports Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed with big $628M con­tract to ser­vice Amer­i­ca's vac­cine pro­duc­tion needs

Another BARDA contract designed to service America’s Covid-19 vaccine needs has been deployed.

The White House-led initiative designed to bankroll development to bring a vaccine to the American public by this fall — Operation Warp Speed — has via BARDA handed a meaty contract to the maker of an FDA-licensed anthrax vaccine to open up its manufacturing apparatus to shore up production of Covid-19 vaccines.

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