Bris­tol-My­ers, J&J sink cash in­to a new $95M Eu­ro­pean biotech fund

A ven­ture cap­i­tal firm in the Nether­lands — backed by some big names in Big Phar­ma — has raised $95 mil­lion in a new fund to fu­el Eu­ro­pean biotech star­tups.

The Dutch VC firm, called Bio­Gen­er­a­tion Ven­tures (BGV), plans to sink cash in­to seed-stage com­pa­nies de­vel­op­ing ther­a­peu­tics, med­ical de­vices, and di­ag­nos­tics. Man­ag­ing part­ner Ed­ward van Wezel said the fund has no par­tic­u­lar area of fo­cus, but will like­ly keep an eye out for im­muno-on­col­o­gy and heart dis­ease drugs.

Ed­ward van Wezel

BGV has al­ready de­ployed some of that cap­i­tal, with five in­vest­ments made so far this year. The lat­est en­trants to BGV’s port­fo­lio in­clude Ger­man im­muno-on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny CataLym, and Dutch com­pa­nies Es­calier Bio­sciences (au­toim­mune), Scenic Biotech (tar­get dis­cov­ery), Var­mX (hema­tol­ogy), and Mel­lon Med­ical (vas­cu­lar su­tur­ing).

BGV plans to ex­pand the port­fo­lio to in­clude 15 star­tups to­tal.

This is BGV’s third and largest fund since the com­pa­ny’s 2006 in­cep­tion. The VCs al­ready have a cou­ple of wins un­der their belt, in­clud­ing a big ex­it for port­fo­lio com­pa­ny Ac­er­ta Phar­ma, which sold to As­traZeneca in 2015 for $7 bil­lion. That same year, BGV’s port­fo­lio com­pa­ny Dez­i­ma Phar­ma sold to Am­gen for $1.5 bil­lion. BGV was a found­ing in­vestor for both com­pa­nies.

This lat­est fund was backed by a hand­ful of new in­vestors, in­clud­ing cor­po­rate mon­ey from Bris­tol-My­ers Squibb and John­son & John­son In­no­va­tion. Get­ting cor­po­rate back­ers was a first for BGV, van Wezel said. Al­though cor­po­rate in­vest­ments are on the rise in biotech, van Wezel said its still quite un­usu­al to see com­pa­nies like BMS and J&J chip­ping in­to Eu­ro­pean funds.

Paul Bion­di

“I think every­body rec­og­nizes some very sound sci­ence is be­ing pro­duced in Eu­rope,” van Wezel said. “That’s part of the rea­son these cor­po­ra­tions have an in­ter­est in funds like ours. I think both are hop­ing to get some in­sight in the on­go­ing in­no­va­tion in Eu­rope, and to be privy to ear­ly things as they pop up.”

BMS’ head of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment Paul Bion­di said BMS is in­creas­ing­ly in­vest­ing in VC firms out­side the US, and Eu­rope is par­tic­u­lar­ly in­ter­est­ing to them.

“The sci­ence in Eu­rope is quite com­pelling, and there isn’t as much ven­ture cap­i­tal there yet,” Bion­di said. BMS has al­ready chipped in to a dif­fer­ent Eu­ro­pean VC fund at Life Sci­ence Part­ners, but that group spe­cial­izes in lat­er-stage deals, Bion­di said. “We want­ed to find some­body that was start­ing a lit­tle ear­li­er, and that’s the fo­cus of BGV,” Bion­di said.

It doesn’t hurt that BGV is al­so in­ter­est­ed in some of BMS’ core fo­cus ar­eas, in­clud­ing im­muno-on­col­o­gy, au­toim­mune, and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

BGV has raised over $133 mil­lion to­tal across three funds. It has achieved eight ex­its, and has eight ac­tive port­fo­lio com­pa­nies.

Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

Daniel O'Day [via AP Images]

UP­DAT­ED: Gilead un­leash­es a $5B late-stage cash al­liance with Gala­pa­gos — lay­ing out O'­Day's R&D strat­e­gy

Daniel O’Day is executing his first major development deal since taking over as CEO of Gilead $GILD. And he’s going in deep to ally himself with a longstanding partner.

O’Day announced today that he is spending $5 billion in cash to add new late-stage drugs to Gilead’s pipeline, picking up rights to Galapagos’ $GLPG Phase III IPF drug GLPG1690 alongside adoption of the biotech’s Phase IIb drug GLPG1972 for osteoarthritis. And Gilead is also putting billions more on the table for milestones, gaining options for everything else in Galapagos’ pipeline, with a shot at all rights outside of Europe.

Altogether, Gilead is gaining rights to 6 clinical-stage assets, 20 preclinical programs and everything else being hatched in translation.

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Hal Barron [File photo]

Hal Bar­ron's team at GSK scores a win with pos­i­tive Ze­ju­la PhI­II front­line study — now comes the hard part

Score one for Hal Barron and the new R&D team steering GlaxoSmithKline’s pipeline.

The pharma giant reported this morning that its recently acquired PARP, Zejula (niraparib), hit the primary endpoint on progression-free survival in a frontline maintenance setting for women suffering ovarian cancer — following chemo and regardless of their BRCA status.

GSK bet $5 billion on the Tesaro buyout primarily to get this drug, drawing the shaking heads of biopharma. Why pay a big premium for a drug like this when AstraZeneca was going from strength to strength with Lynparza, ran the argument, having won a hugely important accelerated approval to jump out ahead — way ahead — of the rest of the PARP players? Lynparza — now co-owned by a powerhouse cancer team at Merck — won the first approval in frontline maintenance in ovarian cancer.

Alk­er­mes adds bipo­lar I dis­or­der to its FDA wish­list; Con­go con­firms first Ebo­la case in large city

→ An ever-ambitious Alkermes $ALKS team plans to add bipolar I disorder to its list of conditions for ALKS-3831, which it plans to pitch to the FDA in Q4. Alkermes says they were persuaded to add bipolar I disorder after a pre-NDA meeting with the agency, which came about 7 months after the biotech reported positive data for schizophrenia. The drug is a combo using olanzapine/samidorphan, which they hope will be shown to be as effective as olanzapine without the substantial increase in the risk of weight gain.

Pe­ter Kolchin­sky and Raj Shah raise a $300M fund de­vot­ed to biotech star­tups

Peter Kolchinsky and Raj Shah have another $300 million-plus to play with on the biotech venture side of their investment business. 

The two announced Monday morning that they’ve put together their first pure-play venture fund at RA Capital Management, which has been known to bet on just about every angle in healthcare investing — from rounds to follow-on investments at public companies. This new fund of theirs arrives well into a go-go era of new startup financing, with a particular focus on building new biotechs.

Boehringer buys Swiss biotech in its lat­est M&A deal, go­ing the next-gen can­cer vac­cine route

Boehringer Ingelheim has snapped up a Swiss biotech startup and added their group as a new platform for the oncology pipeline. 

The German biopharma company has bagged Geneva-based AMAL Therapeutics, paying out an unspecified upfront in a $358 million deal — cash, milestones and everything else, all in. Plus there’s 100 million euros on the line for commercial milestones.

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Ab­b­Vie beefs up the on­col­o­gy pipeline, bag­ging an up­start STING play­er with its own unique ap­proach

AbbVie isn’t letting its $63 billion buyout of Allergan stop its M&A/deals team from continuing their work.

Monday morning we learned that the pharma giant is snapping up tiny Mavupharma out of Seattle, a Frazier-backed startup that has its own unique take on STING — which is on the threshold of their first clinical trial.

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Billing it­self as the first AI biotech to launch hu­man tri­als, Re­cur­sion adds $121M C round

Billing itself as the first AI biotech with programs in the clinic, Salt Lake City-based Recursion now has a $121 million bankroll to start gathering human data to see if it’s on the right track. 

“We’re trying to build this discovery engine,” Recursion CEO Chris Gibson tells me ahead of the C round news. “We now have the first two programs in the clinic.” And that, he adds, qualifies as a first for any AI establishment “that actually have something in the clinic.”

FDA bats back As­traZeneca's SGLT di­a­betes drug for Type 1 di­a­betes — block­ing a class on safe­ty fears

The FDA has just fired its latest salvo at the SGLT class of diabetes drugs, blowing up some commercial opportunity at AstraZeneca as part of the collateral damage.

The pharma giant reported early Monday that the FDA has rejected its blockbuster drug Farxiga for Type 1 diabetes that can’t be controlled by insulin. And while the pharma giant maintained its usual grim silence in the face of a setback, this one should be easy to interpret.