Peter Blume-Jensen, Acrivon Therapeutics CEO

Can a small band of bio­phar­ma play­ers suc­ceed where Eli Lil­ly failed? They’re tak­ing a shot

Eli Lil­ly didn’t try to spin any­thing about the mid-stage da­ta they got on their CHK1/CHK2 drug prex­as­ert­ib for ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients. The drug failed to move the di­al in a sig­nif­i­cant fash­ion and they un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly swept it right out of the pipeline a lit­tle more than 2 years ago.

Usu­al­ly, that would have been it, an­oth­er once-promis­ing drug that didn’t make the cut. We see it reg­u­lar­ly. But a small group of biotech play­ers has come to­geth­er to take an­oth­er crack at a piv­otal play on this drug. And they be­lieve they have the key to mak­ing a suc­cess of it.

Jes­per Olsen

They’re launch­ing their new biotech — Acrivon Ther­a­peu­tics, with ops in the Boston area and Lund, Swe­den — af­ter forg­ing an in-li­cens­ing deal for prex­as­ert­ib, swap­ping eq­ui­ty for Lil­ly’s rights to the drug. And they are show­cas­ing a new com­pan­ion di­ag­nos­tics plat­form tech­nol­o­gy with a big goal: us­ing pro­teomics to tri­an­gu­late a va­ri­ety of drug mech­a­nisms to the ac­tive dis­ease-dri­ving process­es of can­cer in pa­tients.

“We be­lieve it’s the next wave of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine. We have worked on ge­net­ics and us­ing ge­net­ics-based med­i­cines for 20 years and they work great when they do work,” CEO Pe­ter Blume-Jensen tells me. “But they are lim­it­ed. Ge­net­ic al­ter­ations most of­ten do not tell you ex­act­ly what’s go­ing on with the tar­get … We are try­ing to more di­rect­ly to mea­sure what are the dis­ease-dri­ving mech­a­nisms in the tu­mor.”

Blume-Jensen says they’ve iden­ti­fied 3 bio­mark­ers — he’s not of­fer­ing de­tails yet — that al­low them to iden­ti­fy the pa­tients most like­ly to re­spond to the treat­ment, bank­ing on the monother­a­py re­spons­es that Lil­ly has tracked to point them to a nar­row mar­ket niche where the drug can more re­li­ably work. And they be­lieve they have found 2 oth­er tu­mor types that can al­so work — which rounds out the bas­ket study that is now be­ing set up as they pur­sue the FDA’s ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval path­way.

Kristi­na Mas­son

It’s not a big play, at least not yet. Blume-Jensen says they’ve raised a lit­tle more than $20 mil­lion for the com­pa­ny, with more talks un­der­way with a syn­di­cate that in­cludes Chione, NEA, and Alexan­dria Ven­ture In­vest­ments. He and his in­vestors filed a Form D ear­li­er this year out­lin­ing a $15.5 mil­lion raise.

The com­pa­ny co-founder is Kristi­na Mas­son, who leads and runs the sub­sidiary out of Medicon Vil­lage, in Lund, Swe­den.

Jes­per Olsen, a pro­fes­sor at the No­vo-Nordisk Foun­da­tion Pro­tein In­sti­tute in Copen­hagen and an ex­pert in phos­pho­pro­teomics, is the aca­d­e­m­ic co-founder. The rough­ly 20-mem­ber team is led by Blume-Jensen, who’s worked in a va­ri­ety of roles in bio­phar­ma R&D, along with CMO Er­ick Gamelin and oth­ers.

They’re al­so not plan­ning on be­ing a one-hit biotech. Acrivon has al­so been build­ing a “pro­pri­etary pipeline of struc­ture-based drug pro­grams tar­get­ing crit­i­cal nodes in the DDR and cell cy­cle reg­u­la­tion.”

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Katrine Bosley (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

For­mer Ed­i­tas CEO Ka­trine Bosley goes the VC route, join­ing ear­ly-stage in­vestor

More than three years after abruptly exiting Editas Medicine, Katrine Bosley is leaping to the venture capital side of things.

London-based early-stage investor Advent Life Sciences announced Thursday that Bosley is joining the firm as venture partner. It’s also adding two general partners to the team: Dominic Schmidt, formerly of Syncona, will be in the UK; and Satish Jindal, most recently the CEO of investment fund BioMotiv, will be based in Boston, just like Bosley.

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Serhat Gumrukçu, Enochian BioSciences co-founder (Seraph Research Institute)

LA biotech founder ar­rest­ed, charged in mur­der-for-hire scheme be­hind 2018 death

A biotech founder has been arrested and charged for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the death of a man in Vermont back in 2018.

Serhat Gumrukçu, the co-founder of Enochian BioSciences, was arrested in Los Angeles, where the company is based, according to the Department of Justice. He was charged alongside Berk Eratay of Las Vegas, and a third person, Jerry Banks of Colorado, was previously arrested for kidnapping and allegedly murdering the victim, Gregory Davis.

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Adam Russell, ARPA-H's incoming acting deputy director

NI­H's new, in­de­pen­dent break­through drug ac­cel­er­a­tor ARPA-H gets its first em­ploy­ee

Despite the controversy of housing it in NIH, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday afternoon formally announced the establishment of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as an independent entity within the NIH, as HHS had previously stipulated that “NIH may not subject ARPA-H to NIH policies.”

Becerra also announced the appointment of ARPA-H’s inaugural employee, Adam Russell, who will serve as acting deputy director.

ProFound Therapeutics founding team

Flag­ship's lat­est biotech could turn some of the thou­sands of new pro­teins it dis­cov­ered in­to ther­a­pies — and it has $75M to start

Flagship Pioneering, the incubator of Moderna and dozens of other biotechs, says it has landed upon tens of thousands of previously undiscovered human proteins. The VC shop wants to potentially turn them into therapeutics.

Like other drug developers that have turned proteins into therapeutics (think insulin for diabetes), Flagship’s latest creation, ProFound Therapeutics, wants to tap into this new trove of proteins as part of its mission to treat indications ranging from rare diseases to cancer to immunological diseases.

Richard Silverman, Akava Therapeutics founder and Northwestern professor

This time around, Lyri­ca's in­ven­tor is de­vel­op­ing his North­west­ern dis­cov­er­ies at his own biotech

Richard Silverman was left in the dark for the last five years of clinical development of the drug he discovered. The Northwestern University professor found out about the first approval of Lyrica, in the last few days of 2004, like most other people: in the newspaper.

What became one of Pfizer’s top-selling meds, at $5 billion in 2017 global sales before losing patent protection in 2019, started slipping out of his hands when Northwestern licensed it out to Parke-Davis, one of two biotechs that showed interest in developing the drug in the pre-email days, when the university’s two-person tech transfer team had to ship out letters to garner industry appetite.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Up­dat­ed: US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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