Founders David Epstein and Elizabeth Buck [file photo]

Can­cer-fo­cused Black Di­a­mond vaults on to Nas­daq in $200M+ pub­lic de­but, mark­ing biggest biotech IPO in 2020 so far

Ver­sant-backed Black Di­a­mond Ther­a­peu­tics has set its sights on an up­sized biotech IPO to kick 2020 off.

The first start­up out of Ver­sant’s Ridge­line dis­cov­ery en­gine in Basel is set to make its pub­lic de­but on Thurs­day, rais­ing gross pro­ceeds of $201 mil­lion through the sale of 10.6 mil­lion shares priced at $19 a pop.

That ex­ceeds the ini­tial plan to raise $151 mil­lion by of­fer­ing 8.9 mil­lion shares at a price range of $16 to $18 — a pos­i­tive sign that the IPO win­dow is still wide open for busi­ness, es­pe­cial­ly for can­cer biotechs. On­col­o­gy is lu­cra­tive, with can­cer fast catch­ing up with car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease as the most dead­ly con­di­tion in the de­vel­oped world.

Ahead of the IPO, Black Di­a­mond’s tu­mor-ag­nos­tic ap­proach to fight­ing can­cer spawned more than $200 mil­lion in ven­ture fund­ing. At the end of 2018 the com­pa­ny — found­ed by two sci­en­tists in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment of the can­cer drug Tarce­va, David Ep­stein and Eliz­a­beth Buck — ini­tial­ly raised $20 mil­lion in its Se­ries A. That in­jec­tion was sup­ple­ment­ed by two back-to-back to $85 mil­lion rounds of fi­nanc­ing, led by sev­er­al high pro­file groups in­clud­ing New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates, RA Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and Box­er Group.

While in­hibitors used to sup­press ki­nase do­main mu­ta­tions, or TKIs, are con­sid­ered stan­dard-of-care treat­ment for many types of can­cer, al­losteric mu­ta­tions are still un­chart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. Us­ing their tech plat­form, Black Di­a­mond is look­ing to map al­losteric mu­ta­tions dri­ving can­cer to de­vel­op in­hibitors that are tu­mor ag­nos­tic.

Onco­genes — which have the po­ten­tial to cause the growth of can­cer cells — are ac­ti­vat­ed by ki­nase do­main mu­ta­tions or by al­losteric mu­ta­tions. Al­lostery is a com­mon process by which pro­teins trans­mit the ef­fect of bind­ing at one site to an­oth­er — of­ten dis­tal — func­tion­al site, al­low­ing for reg­u­la­tion of ac­tiv­i­ty.

“World­wide sales of ki­nase in­hibitors, one class of tar­get­ed ther­a­pies, ex­ceed­ed $25 bil­lion in 2018. De­spite the suc­cess of these drugs, a re­cent analy­sis found that on­ly nine per­cent of pa­tients with metasta­t­ic can­cer have tu­mors with ge­net­ic pro­files that could make them el­i­gi­ble for treat­ment with an ap­proved pre­ci­sion on­col­o­gy med­i­cine,” Black Di­a­mond cit­ed in its IPO fil­ing ear­li­er this month,

As in­creas­ing ge­nom­ic pro­fil­ing of can­cer pa­tients iden­ti­fies clus­ters of un­char­ac­ter­ized ge­nom­ic al­ter­ations, the biotech’s tech­nol­o­gy is de­signed to iso­late “drug­gable mu­ta­tion bas­kets” to cre­ate pre­ci­sion med­i­cines that could ben­e­fit a broad­er swathe of pa­tients.

The com­pa­ny’s lead ex­per­i­men­tal ther­a­py, BDTX-189, is en­gi­neered to thwart the func­tion of onco­genic pro­teins that af­fect both EGFR and HER2, and is be­ing groomed for a Phase I/II tri­al set to kick off in the first half of this year. Black Di­a­mond al­so has a pre­clin­i­cal can­di­date — among oth­er undis­closed as­sets brew­ing in its pipeline — de­signed to com­bat glioblas­toma, a par­tic­u­lar­ly ag­gres­sive and dead­ly form of brain can­cer.

Black Di­a­mond will make its de­but on the Nas­daq un­der the sym­bol “$BDTX.”

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Hal Barron, GSK via YouTube

What does $29B buy you in Big Phar­ma? In Glax­o­SmithK­line’s case, a whole lot of un­com­fort­able ques­tions about the pipeline

Talk about your bad timing.

A little over a week ago, GSK R&D chief Hal Barron marked his third anniversary at the research helm by taking a turn at the virtual podium during JP Morgan to make the case that he and his team had built a valuable late-stage pipeline capable of churning out more than 10 blockbusters in the next 5 years.

And then, just days later, one of the cancer drugs he bet big on as a top prospect — bintrafusp, partnered with Merck KGaA — failed its first pivotal test in non-small cell lung cancer.

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Janet Woodcock (AP Images)

End­points poll: Janet Wood­cock takes the (in­ter­im) helm at the FDA. And a large ma­jor­i­ty of our read­ers want her to stay there

It’s official: Janet Woodcock is now the acting chief of the FDA.

And — according to an Endpoints poll — most industry readers would like her to stay there, although a significant minority is strongly opposed.

To recap: Joe Biden is reportedly choosing between Woodcock and former deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as his nominee for the permanent position. Given their respective track records, the decision is set to determine the agency’s lodestar for years to come.

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An Endpoints Zoom meeting; and the email header employees will see if your company is a Premium subscriber

What’s next for End­points — and how to sup­port our in­de­pen­dent bio­phar­ma news mis­sion

The firehose of biopharma news is gushing these days.

That’s why broader and deeper is the theme for 2021 at Endpoints. You can expect new coverage outside our core R&D focus, with deeper reporting in some key areas. When John Carroll and I launched Endpoints nearly five years ago, we were wading in waist-high waters. Now we’re a team of 25 full-time staffers (and growing) with plans to cover the flood of biopharma news, Endpoints-style.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

Fast on Glax­o­SmithK­line's heels, Au­rinia wins OK to steer a sec­ond lu­pus nephri­tis drug straight to the mar­ket

GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta isn’t alone in the small circle of approved lupus nephritis drugs anymore.

Little Aurinia Pharmaceuticals has gotten the green light from the FDA to start marketing its first and only program, voclosporin, under the brand name Lupkynis — something CEO Peter Greenleaf says it’s been ready to do since December.

Regulators went right down to the wire on the decision, keeping the company and the entire salesforce it’s already assembled on its toes.

Charlie Fuchs, Roche and Genentech global head of product development for oncology and hematology (Yale Cancer Center)

Yale can­cer spe­cial­ist Char­lie Fuchs tapped as new glob­al de­vel­op­ment chief for Roche/Genen­tech

Roche and their big sub Genentech have just recruited a top cancer specialist at Yale to head up global product development in oncology and hematology.

I just got word that the pharma giant, which leads one of the most active cancer research operations in the world, recruited Charlie Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital. He’ll join the global operation March 1 and will be based in South San Francisco, where Genentech is based.

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Jonathan Weissman (MIT)

Can a new CRISPR tech­nique un­lock the se­crets of how can­cer spreads?

Jonathan Weissman’s team watched the cancer cells spread across the doomed mouse. Engineered with a bioluminescent enzyme, they appeared in scans first as a small navy blue diamond lodged near the heart; a week later, as a triangle splayed across the mouse’s upper body, with streaks of green and two distinct bright red hubs of activity. By day 54, the mouse resembled a lava lamp.

The images would have been familiar to any cancer biologist, but they didn’t actually tell you much about what was going on: why the cancer was metastasizing or which cells were responsible. For that, Weissman’s team had designed a new tool. Inside the original navy blue diamond, they had engineered the microbiological equivalent of an airplane’s black box — a “molecular recorder” that, after the mouse’s death, could allow them to extract the cells and wind back intimate footage of a single cancer’s ascent.

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Kimberly Smith, ViiV R&D chief (ViiV Healthcare)

Af­ter sting­ing FDA set­back, Glax­o­SmithK­line's Vi­iV fi­nal­ly notch­es US ap­proval for long-act­ing HIV in­jec­tion

GlaxoSmithKline’s HIV unit ViiV was dealt a stinging loss back in late 2019 when the FDA slammed the brakes on its application for a once-monthly injection based on manufacturing issues. Now, with that roadblock in the rearview, ViiV has finally made good on its promise to change the HIV game.

The FDA on Thursday approved ViiV’s Cabenuva (cabotegravir and rilpivirine) as a long acting, once-monthly therapy for HIV-positive adults who are virologically suppressed and on a stable antiviral regimen.