Jack Elands, Emergence Therapeutics CEO

Can a new Eu­ro­pean biotech make an ADC bet­ter than Pad­cev? In­vestors are putting up al­most $100M to find out

A new Eu­ro­pean biotech has put to­geth­er a near­ly $100 mil­lion Se­ries A, and its lead pro­gram is go­ing af­ter a tar­get re­cent­ly val­i­dat­ed by the FDA.

Emer­gence Ther­a­peu­tics raised €87 mil­lion in its first big raise Tues­day, good for rough­ly $97.8 mil­lion, com­ing out of stealth with a plan to tack­le an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates. The first pro­gram up is set­ting its sights on nectin-4, the tar­get for Astel­las and Seagen’s Pad­cev drug, which gained full FDA ap­proval for urothe­lial can­cers this past sum­mer.

CEO Jack Elands said the com­pa­ny got its start af­ter work­ing with re­searchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mar­seille Can­cer Re­search Cen­ter to de­vel­op the lead can­di­date.

“We start­ed think­ing about what we ac­tu­al­ly need to do in or­der to out­per­form Pad­cev, be­cause we didn’t want to just blind­ly de­vel­op [a drug], we re­al­ly want­ed to de­vel­op some­thing that was marked­ly bet­ter,” Elands told End­points News.

He added: “We’re now in a phase where we just have to ex­e­cute rapid­ly and with high qual­i­ty, and the abil­i­ty to raise this Se­ries A is go­ing to en­able us to do that.”

The pro­gram in ques­tion is known as ETx-22, and Emer­gence is pin­ning its high hopes here. By sharp­en­ing the mes­sage that re­searchers want to tack­le nectin-4, Elands is all but de­clar­ing his com­pa­ny can de­vel­op a Pad­cev suc­ces­sor.

There are scant hard da­ta to go on so far, as Emer­gence has on­ly con­duct­ed pre­clin­i­cal work for the can­di­date to this point. The biotech is pre­dict­ing, how­ev­er, ETx-22 will prove less tox­ic than oth­er nectin-4 AD­Cs, al­low­ing for high­er dos­ing and greater ef­fi­ca­cy.

Elands high­light­ed a few rea­sons why he thinks ETx-22 could even­tu­al­ly prove suc­cess­ful down the line, say­ing pre­clin­i­cal da­ta have shown the com­pound binds 10 times bet­ter to tu­mor nectin-4, its ADC link­er is more sta­ble than Pad­cev’s and it us­es a tox­in that is less tox­ic for the skin.

“We have very good rea­sons to be­lieve that we can have a bet­ter ther­a­peu­tic in­dex,” Elands said. “I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly say there’s no risk, be­cause that would be fool­ish, but that the risk in the de­vel­op­ment process is rel­a­tive­ly well con­trolled.”

Emer­gence is ini­tial­ly plan­ning for stud­ies in blad­der and triple-neg­a­tive breast can­cer, two tu­mor types with high nectin-4 ex­pres­sion lev­els. But ETx-22 will al­so be stud­ied in oth­er sol­id tu­mors with medi­um and low nectin-4 ex­pres­sion, the com­pa­ny says, in­clud­ing ovar­i­an, head and neck, and lung can­cer.

Elands is look­ing at the sec­ond half of 2023 for when ETx-22 will hit the clin­ic, with first in-hu­man da­ta avail­able by the end of 2025. That’s a long way to go, but Emer­gence will al­so be us­ing some of the raise on oth­er AD­Cs for sol­id tu­mors that still need more dis­cov­ery work.

Com­ing from the Astel­las and Seagen duo, Pad­cev won full FDA ap­proval in Ju­ly af­ter first nab­bing an ac­cel­er­at­ed OK back in 2019. The drug was orig­i­nal­ly green­light­ed to treat ad­vanced or metasta­t­ic urothe­lial can­cer for pa­tients who aren’t el­i­gi­ble for cis­platin chemo and is now avail­able for sec­ond-line pa­tients.

It’s an in­di­ca­tion where the big check­point in­hibitor block­busters have had lit­tle ef­fect on sur­vival, po­ten­tial­ly giv­ing Pad­cev an op­por­tu­ni­ty to carve out a mar­ket. And if Emer­gence’s plan works out, the biotech be­lieves it could take up what­ev­er man­tle Pad­cev leaves be­hind.

Tues­day’s round was led by Pon­tif­ax Ven­ture Cap­i­tal and in­cludes RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, Or­biMed Ad­vi­sors, Sur­vey­or Cap­i­tal and Hadean Ven­tures as new in­vestors, as well as ex­ist­ing in­vestors Kur­ma Part­ners, NRW.BANK, High-Tech Grün­der­fonds, Grün­der­fonds Ruhr and Bpifrance through its In­no­Bio 2 fund.

UP­DAT­ED: In a fresh dis­ap­point­ment, Am­gen spot­lights a ma­jor safe­ty is­sue with KRAS com­bo

Amgen had hoped that its latest study matching its landmark KRAS G12C drug Lumakras with checkpoint inhibitors would open up its treatment horizons and expand its commercial potential. Instead, the combo spurred safety issues that blunted efficacy and forced the pharma giant to alter course on its treatment strategy, once again disappointing analysts who have been tracking the drug’s faltering sales and limited therapeutic reach.

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Ad­dress­ing the ‘Ca­pac­i­ty Crunch’ with a Scal­able Plat­form Process Ap­proach

The field of gene therapy has been diligently moving forward over the past several decades to bring potentially life-saving treatments to patients with genetic diseases. In addition to two approved adeno-associated viral (AAV) gene therapies, there are more than 250 AAV gene therapies in various clinical trial stages.1 AAV vectors remain the most frequently used vector for delivering therapeutic transgenes to target tissues due to their demonstrated and lasting clinical efficacy and extensive safety track record. As AAV therapies advance through clinical trials and into commercialization, many biotech companies are turning to contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) to prepare their programs for late-stage clinical and commercial scale manufacturing. Given the scope and scale of the manufacturing needs that will accompany regulatory approvals for these assets, CDMOs continue to expand their capacity to meet the needs of increasing prevalent patient populations. However, despite rapid growth, projected gene therapy manufacturing demands still outpace the collective capacity of the CDMO industry.

A $5B Pfiz­er buy­out? Am­gen, Gilead head­line M&A Thurs­day; Al­ny­lam's AT­TR sweep; An­drew Lo's rare dis­ease quest; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

One of the cool things about adding EndpointsPharma to the daily roster is that my colleagues can now dedicate time to tracking quarterly updates and tuning into calls with Big Pharma companies. Check out their dispatch from the Q2 earnings below.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

Break­ing: Pfiz­er in hot pur­suit of a $5B buy­out of Glob­al Blood Ther­a­peu­tics — re­port

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has vowed to leave no stone unturned in the search for new biotech deals, and the BD team is not letting him down.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Pfizer is in the final stages of acquiring Global Blood Therapeutics for $5 billion. According to the Journal report, though, Pfizer is not the only buyer at the deal table and while the pharma giant may be close to clinching it, there are no guarantees it will continue.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Justin Kase Conder/AP Images for Amgen)

UP­DAT­ED: Am­gen chief Brad­way nabs a rare dis­ease play­er in $4B buy­out as the M&A tem­po ac­cel­er­ates

Amgen CEO Bob Bradway is bellying up to the M&A table today, scooping up the newly anointed commercial biotech ChemoCentryx $CCXI and its recently approved rare disease drug for $3.7 billion out of the cash stockpile. The deal comes in at $52 a share — a hefty increase over the $24.11 close yesterday.

Bradway and the Amgen team get a drug called Tavneos (avacopan) in the deal, a complement factor C5a inhibitor OK’d to treat anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody (ANCA)-vasculitis, an autoimmune disease which can be lethal.

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George Yancopoulos, Regeneron president and CSO (Brendan McDermid/Reuters/Alamy)

George Yan­copou­los says he's on the trail of the holy grail: ‘This could rep­re­sent the next break­through for im­munother­a­py’

Two of the most outspoken — and successful — drug developers in biotech say they’ve collected early-stage clinical data that are pointing them down the trail to the holy grail in cancer immunotherapy R&D.

While analysts largely busied themselves today with chronicling the ongoing success of Regeneron’s two big cash cows — Dupixent and Eylea — chief scientist George Yancopoulos and CEO Len Schleifer used the Q2 call to spotlight their early success with a combination of the “homegrown” PSMAxCD28 costimulatory bispecific antibody REGN5678 in combination with their PD-1 checkpoint Libtayo. The presentation comes just weeks after Regeneron completed a deal to gather all rights to the PD-1 that had been in Sanofi’s hands. And the two top execs are unstinting in their praise of the potential of a whole set of costimulatory pipeline projects which they say may finally deliver the long-awaited next-level approach to broadening the immunotherapy field of drugs.

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(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

US de­clares mon­key­pox a na­tion­al health emer­gency, as new drug­mak­ers con­sid­er en­ter­ing vac­cine race

Rising monkeypox cases have put the US on high alert as it announces a national health emergency, which grants the government more power in its response.

The news comes as Bavarian Nordic continues to fill orders for its Jynneos vaccine and other companies – including Moderna – consider jumping into the vaccine race. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the US has allowed around 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine in its stockpile to expire.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Bio­haven touts surge in Nurtec sales ahead of Pfiz­er takeover

Forget buyer’s remorse, Pfizer is likely feeling pretty good about its $11.6 billion Biohaven takeover deal following reports of a 57% sales boost for migraine med Nurtec.

Biohaven reported in Q2 results on Friday that it’s cleared the necessary antitrust hurdles to move forward with the sale of its calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) assets to Pfizer. However, because the company is “focused on workstreams related to the closing” of the deal, it did not host a call with analysts and investors.

Pharma ads are showing up on cooler screens at retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, under a new OptimizeRx deal (OptimizeRx)

Phar­ma brands chill in the phar­ma­cy re­tail aisle with new style ads on re­frig­er­a­tion screens

Want a prescription drug with that soda? While not directly possible, ads for pharma brands now running on beverage and snack cooler screens at pharmacy retailers may at least inspire customers to think about it.

OptimizeRx is hooking up with Cooler Screens media company to bring prescription drug advertising to refrigerator front doors at pharmacies including Walgreens, CVS and Kroger.

The “point of dispense” ads show a full-door image on the cooler doors when a shopper is 12 feet away, but shrinks down to a smaller banner-sized ad so that the refrigerator contents can be seen when a person gets closer. The doors — which have to be specially installed by Cooler Screens — can detect when a person is nearby, how long a person “dwells” in front of the ad and if they do or don’t open the door.

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