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.”

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

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Marc Dunoyer, Alexion CEO (AstraZeneca via YouTube)

Up­dat­ed: As­traZeneca nabs a small rare dis­ease gene ther­a­py play­er for 667% pre­mi­um

AstraZeneca is kicking off the fourth quarter with a little M&A Monday for a gene editing player recently overcoming a second clinical hold to its only program in human studies.

The Big Pharma and its subsidiary Alexion are buying out little LogicBio for $2.07 per share. That’s good for a massive 667% premium over its Friday closing price, when it headed into the weekend at 27 cents and just weeks after Nasdaq said LogicBio would have to delist, which has been put on hold as the biotech requests a hearing. It’s one of two biotech deals to commence October, alongside the news of Incyte buying a vitiligo-focused biotech.

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Dave Marek, Myovant CEO

My­ovant board balks as ma­jor­i­ty own­er Sum­it­o­mo swoops in with a $2.5B deal to buy them out

Three years after Sumitomo scooped up Roivant’s 46% stake in the publicly traded Myovant $MYOV as part of a 5-company, $3 billion deal, they’re coming back for the whole thing.

But these other investors at Myovant want more than what the Japanese pharma company is currently offering to pay at this stage.

Sumitomo is bidding $22.75 a share for the outstanding stock, which now represents 48% of the company after Sumitomo bumped its ownership since the original deal with Roivant. Myovant, however, created a special committee on the board, and they’re shaking their heads over the offer.

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Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO

Vlad Coric charts course for new Bio­haven with neu­ro­science push and Big Phar­ma vets on board

What’s Biohaven without its CGRP portfolio? That’s what CEO Vlad Coric is tasked with deciding as he maps out the new Biohaven post-Pfizer takeover.

Pfizer officially scooped up Biohaven’s CGRP assets on Monday, including blockbuster migraine drug Nurtec and the investigational zavegepant, for $11.6 billion. As a result, Coric spun the broader pipeline into an independent company on Tuesday — with the same R&D team behind Nurtec but about 1,000 fewer staffers and a renewed focus on neuroscience and rare disease.

In AstraZeneca's latest campaign, wild eosinophils called Phils personify the acting up often seen in uncontrolled asthma

As­traZeneca de­buts an­noy­ing pur­ple ‘Phil’ crea­tures, per­son­i­fied asth­ma eosinophils ‘be­hav­ing bad­ly’

There are some odd-looking purple creatures lurking around the halls of AstraZenca lately. The “Phil” character cutouts are purple, personified eosinophils with big buggy eyes and wide mouths, and they’re a part of AZ’s newest awareness effort to help people understand eosinophilic asthma.

The “Asthma Behaving Badly” characters aren’t only on the walls at AZ to show the new campaign to employees, however. The “Phils” are also showing up online on the campaign website, and in digital and social ads and posts on Facebook and Instagram.

Benjamine Liu, TrialSpark CEO

Paul Hud­son and Tri­alSpark's mu­tu­al de­sire to speed up de­vel­op­ment con­verges in three-year, six-drug goal

A unicorn startup that originally set out to hasten clinical studies for biopharma partners dug further into its revised path of internal drug development by linking arms with Sanofi in a pact that the biotech’s CEO said originated from the top.

TrialSpark and the Big Pharma on Tuesday committed to in-licensing and/or acquiring six Phase II/Phase III drugs within the next three years.

“I’ve known Paul Hudson for a while and we were discussing the opportunity to really re-imagine a lot of different parts of pharma,” TrialSpark CEO Benjamine Liu told Endpoints News, “and one of the things that we discussed was this opportunity to accelerate the development of new medicines in mutual areas of interest.”

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Christophe Bourdon, Leo Pharma CEO

Leo Phar­ma looks 'be­yond the skin' in atopic der­mati­tis aware­ness cam­paign

As Leo Pharma aims to take on heavyweight champ Dupixent in atopic dermatitis, the company is launching “AD Days Around the World,” an awareness campaign documenting real patient stories across Europe.

The project, unveiled on Monday, spotlights four patients: Marjolaine, Laura, Julia and África from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, respectively, in short video clips on the challenges of living with AD, the most common form of eczema.

Ying Huang, Legend CEO

Lentivi­ral vec­tor ramp-up: J&J and Leg­end to in­vest $500M in New Jer­sey man­u­fac­tur­ing to sup­port Carvyk­ti

In response to a question on manufacturing scale at Legend Biotech’s R&D day yesterday, the company’s top exec said its partnership with Johnson & Johnson will be doubling its investment in its New Jersey manufacturing center and will be investing a total of $500 million.

With an eye on their BCMA-directed CAR-T therapy Carvykti (cilta-cel), approved in February as a fifth-line treatment for multiple myeloma, Legend CEO Ying Huang said that the ramp-up in production and the decision to manufacture its own lentiviral vectors — currently in shortage worldwide — means they won’t have to deal with that shortage.