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.”

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

All about Omi­cron; We need more Covid an­tivi­rals; GSK snags Pfiz­er’s vac­cine ex­ec; Janet Wood­cock’s fu­ture at FDA; and more

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Lisa Deschamps, AviadoBio CEO

Ex-No­var­tis busi­ness head hops over to a gene ther­a­py start­up — and she's reeled in $80M for a dash to the clin­ic

Neurologist and King’s College London professor Christopher Shaw has been researching neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and collaborating with drugmakers for the last 25 years in the hopes of pushing new therapies forward. But unfortunately, none of those efforts have come anywhere close to fruition.

“So, you know, after 20 years in the game, I said, ‘Let’s try and do it ourselves,’” he told Endpoints News. 

Merck's new antiviral molnupiravir (Quality Stock Arts / Shutterstock)

As Omi­cron spread looms, oral an­tivi­rals ap­pear to be one of the best de­fens­es — now we just need more

After South African scientists reported a new Covid-19 variant — dubbed Omicron by the WHO — scientists became concerned about how effective vaccines and monoclonal antibodies might be against it, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.

“I think it is super worrisome,” Dartmouth professor and Adagio co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross told Endpoints News this weekend. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel echoed similar concerns, telling the Financial Times that experts warned him, “This is not going to be good.”

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Watch out, Roche: No­var­tis inks $1.5B deal to chase down promi­nent Parkin­son’s tar­get

Novartis is plopping down $150 million in cash to pick up an experimental Parkinson’s drug and grab an option to another, a move that puts it on an increasingly popular path in the field’s search for disease-modifying therapies.

Belgium’s UCB is its partner of choice, supplying two small molecule alpha-synuclein misfolding inhibitors in a deal that can add up to nearly $1.5 billion.

Out of the pair, UCB0599 is already in Phase II trials, making Novartis confident enough to pull the trigger on co-development and commercialization, including to foot half of the R&D bill. The pharma giant will make a decision on UCB7853 once UCB wraps the ongoing Phase I program.

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Glax­o­SmithK­line, Ox­ford un­veil new part­ner­ship pit­ting buzzy R&D ad­vances against neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease

When GlaxoSmithKline trumpeted its return to neuroscience with a $700 million upfront deal with Alector this summer, it touted its early investments in functional genomics as a key guidepost for that deal. Now, the drug giant has partnered up with Oxford to hopefully add jet fuel to its hunt for breakthroughs in the brain.

GSK and Oxford have kickstarted a five-year collaboration aimed at spurring R&D breakthroughs across a range of hard-to-treat diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s through the use of genomic testing and machine learning, the partners said Wednesday.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

With on­ly burns to show in gene ther­a­py, Astel­las inks deal with AAV spe­cial­ist Dyno in push for a bet­ter cap­sid

On the hunt for a better AAV capsid for gene therapy, Eric Kelsic’s Dyno Therapeutics has set itself apart with its focus on machine learning to help speed discovery. Now, Japanese drugmaker Astellas — fresh off a slate of gene therapy burns — is taking a bet on Dyno as it looks to the future.

Astellas and Dyno will work together as part of an R&D pact to develop next-gen AAV vectors for gene therapy using Dyno’s CapsidMap platform directed at skeletal and cardiac muscle, the companies said Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, Dyno will design AAV capsids for gene therapy, while Astellas will be responsible for conducting preclinical, clinical and commercialization activities for gene therapy product candidates using the capsids.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi CEO (Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sanofi snaps up new vac­cine can­di­date and de­vis­es mR­NA game plan around it — but not for what you think

Paul Hudson has spotlighted vaccines, immunology and dermatology as some of the top R&D focuses at Sanofi. His latest deal brings all of them together.

The French pharma giant isn’t sharing any financial details about the buyout of Origimm, a low-profile, private Austrian biotech whose technology promises to identify antigens causing skin disease and build vaccines against them. Their lead candidate targets acne vulgaris.

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