Cel­gene dou­bles down on Drag­on­fly­'s nat­ur­al killer tech, ex­pand­ing in­to sol­id tu­mors with an in­jec­tion of 'am­pli­fi­ca­tion cap­i­tal'

You can fund a biotech by sell­ing eq­ui­ty or rais­ing non-di­lu­tive cash, but Bill Haney says am­pli­fi­ca­tion cap­i­tal is the best mon­ey out there.

Par­tic­u­lar­ly when it comes from the likes of Cel­gene.

The CEO at Drag­on­fly Ther­a­peu­tics tells me this morn­ing that Cel­gene $CELG has agreed to dou­ble down on its ini­tial pre­clin­i­cal, hema­tol­ogy-on­ly ap­proach to treat­ing can­cer, adding a range of 4 new sol­id-tu­mor pro­grams to the menu as the start­up plots a di­rect path to the clin­ic. 

All we learned about the cash de­tails was that Cel­gene had paid Drag­on­fly $33 mil­lion cash up­front to part­ner ini­tial­ly, with $50 mil­lion more for the new up­front.

Their first IND is now be­ing prepped for a de­liv­ery in Q2 of next year.

Tyler Jacks

Aside from the ben­e­fits of a part­ner that brings con­sid­er­able op­er­at­ing cap­i­tal to the ta­ble, says the CEO, “the folks we’ve been work­ing with at Cel­gene have been just spec­tac­u­lar and they’ve taught us a lot.” Rob Her­sh­berg, Cel­gene’s head of BD, gets spe­cial ku­dos for bring­ing the two com­pa­nies to­geth­er on Drag­on­fly’s TriN­KET tech­nol­o­gy plat­form. But the whole team at Cel­gene has been help­ing out.

And that’s what makes this new deal all about am­pli­fi­ca­tion cap­i­tal.

“The up­front is ob­vi­ous­ly con­sid­er­ably larg­er,” Haney tells me, “and the roy­al­ties and mile­stones are al­so larg­er.”  In the pact Cel­gene al­so re­leased them from an ex­clu­siv­i­ty clause on hema­tol­ogy, so they can part­ner on oth­er pro­grams now.

David Raulet

Drag­on­fly is the cre­ation of three key play­ers: Tyler Jacks, an MIT pro­fes­sor, HH­MI in­ves­ti­ga­tor and di­rec­tor of the David H. Koch In­sti­tute for In­te­gra­tive Can­cer Re­search; Haney, an en­tre­pre­neur and film mak­er with close con­tacts to the Cam­bridge/Boston biotech hub, is at the helm; and then there’s Berke­ley’s David Raulet, an ex­pert in NK cells and tu­mor im­munol­o­gy.

Drag­on­fly’s 40-mem­ber team — which is al­so work­ing on a big col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mer­ck — be­lieves they have a bet­ter way to at­tack can­cer by link­ing on­to NK (nat­ur­al killer) cells and drag­ging them to a can­cer cell. That drug de­sign in turn, says Haney, should al­so re­cruit reg­u­lar T cells to mob can­cer cells, am­pli­fy­ing the ef­fect.

And they can do it with­out need­ing to hunt up new in­vestors.

Says Haney: “We haven’t sold eq­ui­ty in 18 months and I don’t see any rea­son to do it for some time to come.”

Im­age: Bill Haney. DRAG­ON­FLY

The Big Phar­ma dis­card pile; Lay­offs all around while some biotechs bid farewell; New Roche CEO as­sem­bles top team; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

With earnings seasons in full swing, we’ve listened in on all the calls so you don’t have to. But news is popping up from all corners, so make sure you check out our other updates, too.

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Trodelvy notch­es a win in most com­mon form of breast can­cer

Following a promise last year to go “big and fast in breast cancer,” Gilead has secured a win for Trodelvy in the most common form.

The drug was approved to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer patients who’ve already received endocrine-based therapy and at least two other systemic therapies for metastatic cancer, Gilead announced on Friday.

Trodelvy won its first indication in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer back in 2020, and has since added urothelial cancer to the list. HR-positive HER2-negative breast cancer accounts for roughly 70% of new breast cancer cases worldwide per year, according to senior VP of oncology clinical development Bill Grossman, and many patients develop resistance to endocrine-based therapies or worsen on chemotherapy.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) (Francis Chung/E&E News/Politico via AP Images)

In­fla­tion re­bates in­com­ing: Wyden calls on CMS to move quick­ly as No­var­tis CEO pledges re­ver­sal

Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week sent a letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeking an update on how and when new inflation-linked rebates will take effect for drugs that see major price spikes.

The newly signed Inflation Reduction Act requires manufacturers to pay a rebate to Medicare when they increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation.

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Te­va drops out of in­dus­try trade group PhRMA

Following in AbbVie’s footsteps, Teva confirmed on Friday that it’s dropping out of the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Teva didn’t give a reason for its decision to leave, saying only in a statement to Endpoints News that it annually reviews “effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated.”

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Sanofi CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon (L) and CEO Paul Hudson (Romuald Meigneux/Sipa via AP Images)

Sanofi sees downtick in flu sales as it preps for launch of RSV an­ti­body

Sanofi expects its RSV antibody jointly developed with AstraZeneca will be available next season, executive VP of vaccines Thomas Triomphe announced on the company’s quarterly call.

Beyfortus, also known as nirsevimab, was approved in the EU back in November and is currently under FDA review with an expected decision coming in the third quarter of this year. The news comes as the FDA plans to hold advisory committee meetings over the next couple months to review RSV vaccines from Pfizer and GSK.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Photographer: Shoko Takayasu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Take­da fo­cus­es on ‘di­verse’ pipeline prospects on heels of two ac­qui­si­tions

After a whopping $4 billion asset buy from Nimbus Therapeutics, along with a $400 million deal with Hutchmed for a colorectal cancer drug, Takeda executives touted pipeline optimism on its latest earnings call this week.

That’s because the TYK2 inhibitor for psoriasis Takeda is getting from Nimbus, along with the Hutchmed fruquintinib commercialization outside of China, are just two of what it reports are 10 late-stage development programs of promising candidates.

Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos (L) and CEO Len Schleifer at a groundbreaking for its new Tarrytown, NY facility, June 2022 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In show­down with Roche, Re­gen­eron gears up for po­ten­tial Eylea ex­pan­sion amid Covid de­cline

Regeneron faced a substantial slump in overall revenue last year, but the focus still remains on some of its biggest blockbusters.

The pharma with several high-profile partnerships — Sanofi and Bayer among them — said Friday that Q4 revenue was down 31% for the quarter, and down 24% for the entire year. However, that won’t stop blockbuster expansion plans.

One of those is Eylea, the Bayer-partnered eye disease drug that has been in major competition with Roche’s Vabysmo. While Eylea is currently only approved in a 2 mg dose, the company recently filed for approval to give a 8 mg dose, in hopes of making a longer-lasting treatment.

BeiGene's new website helps direct cancer patients and caregivers to a wide variety of sources for help.

BeiGene re­veals men­tal health and can­cer care gap in study, de­buts dig­i­tal re­sources

One-fourth of cancer patients are living with depression — and another 20% suffer from anxiety. That’s according to new study results from BeiGene, conducted by Cancer Support Community (CSC), about the mental and emotional health of cancer patients.

While the fact that people with cancer are also dealing with depression or anxiety may not be surprising, what is — and was to BeiGene — is that a majority of them aren’t getting support. 60% of respondents said they were not referred to a mental health professional, and even more concerning, two in five who specifically asked for mental health help did not get it. CSC, a nonprofit mental health in cancer advocacy group, surveyed more than 600 US cancer patients.

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One of the paintings from Gilead's latest campaign making AI art to help MBC patients be 'seen and heard.'

Gilead com­bines ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and art to draw at­ten­tion and hope to MBC

What if you could “see” the emotions and feelings of people living with metastatic breast cancer? That’s what Gilead Sciences’ agency VMLY&R Health did last year, using artificial intelligence and sound analytics to turn the interviews of three women living with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer into works of art.

Using the sound waves, a robotic painting device translated their stories of struggle and hope into colors, contours and brush strokes. The result? An art exhibition called “Paintings of Hope” that was first displayed at ESMO in September in Paris, but has since traveled to hospitals and medical conferences in Europe and Spain.

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