Looking for fresh start following a Duchenne disaster, Catabasis rebrands; Huadong and Insilico team up in oncology
The leaders of Catabasis Pharmaceuticals have decreed that the biotech’s name is no more. Catabasis will be rebranding to Astria Therapeutics effective immediately, with the company’s stock ticker being updated on the Nasdaq on Thursday.
The biotech is also renaming its lead compound from QLS-215 to STAR-0215, currently in preclinical development for the rare genetic disease called hereditary angioedema. Astria acquired the program in its buyout of Quellis Biosciences back in January. That deal followed the complete collapse of their long-running Duchenne MD drug, which flunked a Phase III trial last October.
Their new drug lead is a long-acting monoclonal antibody inhibitor of plasma kallikrein, dosed once every three months or longer, and an IND is expected in mid-2022, the company says.
“The name Astria embodies our commitment to put patients first in all that we do,” said CEO Jill Milne in a statement. “Following the acquisition of Quellis earlier this year, our company is focused on tackling the debilitating disease hereditary angioedema, with the broader goal of addressing the unmet needs of patients with rare and niche allergic and immunological diseases.” — Max Gelman
Huadong and Insilico enter co-development oncology partnership
Chinese pharma Huadong and Hong Kong’s Insilico are bringing their R&D teams together to embark on a new project: to try and find molecules to increase target druggability.
The two companies will combine their resources to look at and test protein-protein interactions, according to a joint statement released by the companies. Insilico will bring its AI-based platform, Chemistry42, alongside Huadong’s own in-house drug discovery platforms.
“We look forward to collaborating with the leading international AI company Insilico, by leveraging respective advantages of both companies, in advancing the development of potential first in class drug molecules to meet increasing clinical medical needs,” said Huadong CSO Dongzhou Liu. — Paul Schloesser
Another SPAC lands, looking for partners
After a summer IPO and SPAC lull, the latest blank check company has filed with the SEC.
The SPAC known as Monterey Bio Acquisition is penciling in a $100 million raise, submitting its S-1 paperwork late Tuesday. It’s an outfit largely run by the VC firm NorthStar Bio Ventures and its manager, Sandip Patel, who own about 67% of the shares pre-offering. There’s also a significant contribution from the firm Chardan Monterey Investments, which controls 22.2% of shares.
Monterey Bio says it plans to use the relationships its board has built within the biotech sector to look to merge with a business that has at least one in-house or in-licensed program — a standard boilerplate copy and paste job in the S-1.
Running the SPAC will be Sanjeev Satyal, who was most recently CEO of the biotech pH Pharma. Based in Seoul and Silicon Valley, pH Pharma focuses on a wide range of indications, with a lead product candidate in glaucoma. There’s also a second candidate being researched for Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, NASH and acute respiratory distress syndrome related to Covid-19.
SPAC activity has slowed significantly since late 2020/early 2021, when the first three months of the year saw more money flow into blank check companies across all sectors than the entirety of 2020. But there are still groups looking for partners, and Tuesday’s newest SPAC says it will have a year to find one. — Max Gelman
US biotech Gain shows positive effects from research on Gaucher and Parkinson’s
Maryland-based biotech Gain Therapeutics reported positive effects from stem cell research on Gaucher and a certain type of Parkinson’s disease.
The company’s study, conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, used stem cells to test two therapy candidates for efficacy against both Gaucher and GBA1 Parkinson’s disease.
“We plan to fully evaluate the results of this study and present a complete data set on the upcoming Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Innovating from Drug Discovery to the Clinic webinar,” Gain CEO Eric Richman said in a statement. Richman also said that Gain anticipates to initialize IND-enabling studies for Gaucher and Parkinson’s Disease before the end of the year. — Paul Schloesser
Bolt Biotherapeutics announces clinical collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb
Bolt Biotherapeutics will work with Bristol Myers Squibb to investigate Bolt’s ISAC candidate BDC-1001 in combination with Bristol Myers Squibb’s PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo. This combination will be tested for the treatment of patients with HER2-expressing solid tumors.
Bolt CEO Randall Schatzman said:
The combination of BDC-1001 and Opdivo holds potential as a treatment for cancer patients, and we welcome the opportunity to investigate this in a clinical setting. We remain grateful to all of the healthcare professionals, scientists, patients, and families involved with Bolt’s clinical studies.
Bolt’s candidate is currently being investigated in a Phase I/II clinical trial in patients with solid tumors that are HER2+ or HER2-low, including breast, gastroesophageal and colorectal tumors. Bolt recently presented preliminary data detailing safety, tolerability, and signs of activity at the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.
Bristol Myers will provide Opdivo for the combination dose escalation and combination dose expansion portions of the trial. The combination dose escalation is expected to start later this year. — Paul Schloesser
Erasca announces clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Pfizer
California biotech Erasca will begin a clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with Pfizer for BRAF inhibitor encorafenib.
This agreement will support a clinical proof-of-concept study evaluating Erasca’s candidate ERAS-007, an oral ERK1/2 inhibitor, in combination with chemotherapy drugs encorafenib and cetuximab for the treatment of patients with BRAF V600E-mutant metastatic colorectal cancer.
This combination will be investigated as part of the Phase Ib/II HERKULES-3 trial expected to start by the end of the year. Erasca will sponsor the study, and Pfizer will supply encorafenib. The two companies will jointly review the clinical trial results.
“We are excited to work with Pfizer to explore this promising combination in colorectal cancer,” said Jonathan E. Lim, Erasca’s chairman, CEO, and co-founder in a statement.
Worldwide, approximately 1.8 million cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every year, with BRAF V600E mutations occurring in approximately 10% of patients. — Paul Schloesser
Alamar Biosciences completes $80M Series B
California biotech Alamar closed an $80 Series B fundraising, bringing its total funding to $110 million.
The funding, which was led by Sherpa Healthcare Partners, is supposed to accelerate Alamar’s development of a protein research platform.
“We are very pleased to have these top-tier investors supporting our next phase of development. They bring a tremendous amount of expertise in life sciences and diagnostics, which will be extremely valuable to us as we build the company,” said founder, chairman and CEO Yuling Luo.
Luo, who founded Alamar in 2018, is also a partner with VC firm Illumina Ventures, which is one of Alamar’s previous investors. — Paul Schloesser