CAR-plus: Irish biotech re­cruits Kite alum Chris Now­ers to prep dual-tar­get­ing NK cell ther­a­py for the clin­ic

Soon af­ter Chris Now­ers left Cell Med­ica — fresh­ly re­brand­ed Ku­ur Ther­a­peu­tics — in Feb­ru­ary, the Kite Phar­ma alum was in­tro­duced to an­oth­er cell ther­a­py play­er.

Chris Now­ers

The ba­sic idea of build­ing an off-the-shelf al­lo­gene­ic plat­form with a CAR-NK ap­proach was fa­mil­iar to him, rid­ing on the same wave as Take­da, J&J-backed Fate, Nkar­ta and oth­ers. But then there was some­thing else that stood out: a mem­brane-bound TNF re­lat­ed apop­to­sis in­duc­ing lig­and vari­ant, or TRAIL vari­ant, that’s al­so en­gi­neered on­to the NK cell for a dual-tar­get­ed at­tack.

It was in­trigu­ing enough for him to take on the CEO role at ONK Ther­a­peu­tics, which is tak­ing the wraps off an $8 mil­lion round de­signed to fund the pre­clin­i­cal work that will pave the way for an IND in two years’ time.

“I’ve had a lit­tle bit of a bap­tism of fire,” he told End­points News.

De­spite not be­ing able to meet Michael O’Dwyer, the CSO and a pro­fes­sor at Na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Ire­land Gal­way and the team he’s lead­ing there, he added, they have a “great part­ner­ship.”

“Michael knows the sci­ence very very thor­ough­ly,” Now­ers said. “So he’s been send­ing me clin­i­cal pa­pers and da­ta so that I can get up to speed rapid­ly.”

Michael O’Dwyer

The TRAIL vari­ant, ONK’s the­o­ry goes, adds a sec­ond mech­a­nism of cy­to­tox­i­c­i­ty that en­gages the death re­cep­tor path­way and re­mains un­af­fect­ed by anti­gen loss.

Both of the biotech’s lead pro­grams in­cor­po­rate pret­ty stan­dard CARs, the first go­ing af­ter CD19 for re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry B cell ma­lig­nan­cies and the sec­ond de­ploy­ing an op­ti­mized CD38 CAR to treat pa­tients re­lapsed/re­frac­to­ry mul­ti­ple myelo­ma. Com­ing up be­hind them is a sol­id tu­mor can­di­date that hits MUC1.

This unique CAR-plus ap­proach, Now­ers be­lieve, will be key to a fast fol­low­er like ONK while oth­er com­pa­nies are ex­plor­ing sim­i­lar sci­ence.

Hav­ing built up a team of 8 since 2015, O’Dwyer is look­ing to hire two more sci­en­tists in the Gal­way lab while Now­ers ex­pands the C-suite with a chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, ex­pect­ing rapid growth in the com­ing year.

“Since the ini­tial trans­for­ma­tive da­ta of au­tol­o­gous CAR-T ther­a­py, which re­al­ly was a step change, I think the field is re­al­ly ac­cel­er­at­ing,” he said.

New York-based Acorn Bioven­tures is pro­vid­ing the fu­el for ONK’s next move, along­side cur­rent share­hold­ers in­clud­ing Azur Phar­ma founder Sea­mus Mul­li­gan.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an­ti­body play­er

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,800+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.