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

Vlad Coric (Biohaven)

In an­oth­er dis­ap­point­ment for in­vestors, FDA slaps down Bio­haven’s re­vised ver­sion of an old ALS drug

Biohaven is at risk of making a habit of disappointing its investors. 

Late Friday the biotech $BHVN reported that the FDA had rejected its application for riluzole, an old drug that they had made over into a sublingual formulation that dissolves under the tongue. According to Biohaven, the FDA had a problem with the active ingredient used in a bioequivalence study back in 2017, which they got from the Canadian drugmaker Apotex.

Chas­ing Roche's ag­ing block­buster fran­chise, Am­gen/Al­ler­gan roll out Avastin, Her­ceptin knock­offs at dis­count

Let the long battle for biosimilars in the cancer space begin.

Amgen has launched its Avastin and Herceptin copycats — licensed from the predecessors of Allergan — almost two years after the FDA had stamped its approval on Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) and three months after the Kanjinti OK (trastuzumab-anns). While the biotech had been fielding biosimilars in Europe, this marks their first foray in the US — and the first oncology biosimilars in the country.

Seer adds ex-FDA chief Mark Mc­Clel­lan to the board; Her­cules Cap­i­tal makes it of­fi­cial for new CEO Scott Bluestein

→ On the same day it announced a $17.5 million Series C, life sciences and health data company Seer unveiled that it had lured former FDA commissioner and ex-CMS administrator Mark McClellan on to its board. “Mark’s deep understanding of the health care ecosystem and visionary insights on policy reform will be crucial in informing our thinking as we work to bring our liquid biopsy and life sciences products to market,” said Seer chief and founder Omid Farokhzad in a statement.

Daniel O'Day

No­var­tis hands off 3 pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams to the an­tivi­ral R&D mas­ters at Gilead

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day’s new task hunting up a CSO for the company isn’t stopping the industry’s dominant antiviral player from doing pipeline deals.

The big biotech today snapped up 3 preclinical antiviral programs from pharma giant Novartis, with drugs promising to treat human rhinovirus, influenza and herpes viruses. We don’t know what the upfront is, but the back end has $291 million in milestones baked in.

Vas Narasimhan, AP Images

On a hot streak, No­var­tis ex­ecs run the odds on their two most im­por­tant PhI­II read­outs. Which is 0.01% more like­ly to suc­ceed?

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan is living in the sweet spot right now.

The numbers are running a bit better than expected, the pipeline — which he assembled as development chief — is performing and the stock popped more than 4% on Thursday as the executive team ran through their assessment of Q2 performance.

Year-to-date the stock is up 28%, so the investors will be beaming. Anyone looking for chinks in their armor — and there are plenty giving it a shot — right now focus on payer acceptance of their $2.1 million gene therapy Zolgensma, where it’s early days. And CAR-T continues to underperform, but Novartis doesn’t appear to be suffering from it.

So what could go wrong?

Actually, not much. But Tim Anderson at Wolfe pressed Narasimhan and his development chief John Tsai to pick which of two looming Phase III readouts with blockbuster implication had the better odds of success.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

They kept a massive number of people alive who would otherwise have been facing a death sentence. And they made money.

And throughout, John Pottage has been the chief scientific and chief medical officer.

Until now.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

H1 analy­sis: The high-stakes ta­ble in the biotech deals casi­no is pay­ing out some record-set­ting win­nings

For years the big trend among dealmakers at the major players has been centered on ratcheting down upfront payments in favor of bigger milestones. Better known as biobucks for some. But with the top 15 companies competing for the kind of “transformative” pacts that can whip up some excitement on Wall Street, with some big biotechs like Regeneron now weighing in as well, cash is king at the high stakes table.

We asked Chris Dokomajilar, the head of DealForma, to crunch the numbers for us, looking over the top 20 deals for the past decade and breaking it all down into the top alliances already created in 2019. Gilead has clearly tipped the scales in terms of the coin of the bio-realm, with its record-setting $5 billion upfront to tie up to Galapagos’ entire pipeline.

Dokomajilar notes:

We’re going to need a ‘three comma club’ for the deals with over $1 billion in total upfront cash and equity. The $100 million-plus club is getting crowded at 164 deals in the last decade with new deals being added towards the top of the chart. 2019 already has 14 deals with at least $100 million in upfront cash and equity for a total year-to-date of over $9 billion. That beats last year’s $8 billion and sets a record.

Add upfronts and equity payments and you get $11.5 billion for the year, just shy of last year’s record-setting $11.8 billion.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

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

Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

Endpoints News

Basic subscription required

Unlock this story instantly and join 55,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.